Canadian Grocer May 2021

Page 1

What’s behind Giant Tiger’s growth? Fighting food waste MAY 2021


We talk to cfig’s Tom Shurrie, fhcp’s Michael Graydon and rcc’s Diane J. Brisebois about how grocery is holding up and what’s coming next



We partner with Rainforest Alliance Certified Suppliers.


Contents Opinions 5 || Front Desk 18 || Food Bytes 20 || Shopper Sense 21 || Consumer Connection People 6 || The Buzz

Comings and goings, store openings, awards, events, etc.

8 || Lola Adeyemi

The founder of It’s Souper taps into African-inspired flavours

Cover Story


30 How is grocery holding up, and what’s coming next?


Ideas 11 || Empire’s Ontario expansion Sobeys’ parent adds another popular chain to its network

12 || Measuring sustainability A national sustainability index is in the works in Canada

14 || The future of work

Aisles 59 || Putting meat on the table

Canadians are adding more meat to their carts, with a focus on afford­ ability, sustainability and variety

64 || Pet power

To maintain pet food sales momentum, grocers should offer premium products and variety


Shining a spotlight on the latest products hitting shelves


WHERE ARE GROCERS IN THE WAR ON FOOD WASTE? 36 How grocers can do more to tackle this mounting problem ROARING INTO A NEW ERA 42 Giant Tiger CEO Paul Wood on how the chain is growing and innovating

A new report from Microsoft confirms that “hybrid” work is here to stay

65 || New on shelf

May 2021 || Volume 135 - Number 3


SHELF STARS 45 Introducing the finalists of the 28th annual Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards

66 || Seaweed: Four things to know

Learn more about this popular and nutritious ingredient from the sea


Express Lane 70 || From lab to table

Guelph professor Simon Somogyi on the implications of lab-grown meat and dairy

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May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 3

Front desk PUBLISHER

Vanessa Peters


Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


Kristin Laird


Josephine Woertman


Michael Kimpton


Donna Kerry


Derek Estey


Lina Trunina


Valerie White


Katherine Frederick

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MAIL PREFERENCES: From time to time other organizations may ask Canadian Grocer if they may send information about a product or service to some Canadian Grocer subscribers, by mail or email. If you do not wish to receive these messages, contact us in any of the ways listed above. Contents Copyright © 2021 by EnsembleIQ, may not be reprinted without permission. Canadian Grocer receives unsolicited materials (including letters to the editor, press releases, pro­ motional items and images) from time to time. Canadian Grocer, its affiliates and assignees may use, reproduce, publish, republish, distribute, store and archive such submissions in whole or in part in any form or medium whatsoever, without compensation of any sort. ISSN# 0008-3704 PM 42940023 Canadian Grocer is Published by Stagnito Partners Canada Inc., 20 Eglinton Avenue West, Ste. 1800, Toronto, Ontario, M4R 1K8. Printed in Canada

ALL EYES ON SUSTAINABILITY Consumers still care about the planet, so retailers need to show they do, too Of the many behaviour changes that the pandemic has sparked, the rise of more ethical, sustainably-minded consumers is right up there. Research from firms like Kantar, Mintel and Accenture have found that things like the environment and ethical sourcing, while not new concerns, have become more important to growing numbers of consumers over the past year. And these conscious consumers are using their wallets to support those companies aligned with their values. Our own research confirmed this fact. Our 2021 GroceryIQ Study: Taking Stock of Grocery Shopper Attitudes and Behaviours found that 64% of shoppers said they could be motivated to switch stores based on a retailer’s sustainability practices. In this issue, the subject of sustainability comes up a lot. In our “State of the Industry” cover story (page 30), Retail Council of Canada’s Diane J. Brisebois raised the issue of sustainability when talking about the big challenges facing grocers, noting that retailers will be “under the microscope in regards to their environmental practices.” Also in this issue, correspondent Danny Kucharsky writes about an effort underway to create a national sustainability index for Canada’s Agri-Food sector that will provide scientific evidence to back up claims, and prove to consumers, that our food supply is among the safest and most sustainable in the world (page 12). And in “Where are grocers in the war on food waste?” (page 36), writer Rebecca Harris looks at new research on the mounting issue of food loss and waste

and the important role retailers have in trying to curb the problem. While on the subject of sustainability, we’re excited to tell you about our just-­ launched Canadian Grocer Impac t Awards. We’re inviting you to take a few moments and tell us about the good work your organization is doing—not just in the area of sustainability but also around diversity, equity and inclusion; as well as how you’re supporting your employees, and any efforts around community service and giving back. We know there are tons of great stories out there and we want to hear them! There’s no fee to nominate and the most impressive initiatives will be featured in the magazine this fall. Visit to learn more. We can’t wait to hear about, and tell, your stories!

Shellee Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief

Keep up to date on the latest news by signing up for our e-newsletter. It’s free and we’ll deliver it to your inbox four times a week. Visit to subscribe May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 5

The Buzz

The latest news in the grocery biz

A new 31,425-sq.ft. Metro Plus store opened mid-March in Prévost, Que.

Sunterra Market opened a two-level, 20,000-sq.-ft. store in Red Deer, Alta.


Courtice, Ont. (east of Toronto) is home to a brand new 34,000-sq.-ft. Food Basics location. FOOD BASICS, one of Metro’s discount banners, currently operates 139 stores across Ontario. And in Prévost, Que., a new 31,425-sq.-ft. METRO PLUS was opened in mid-March

by the Thibeault family, which operates five Metro stores in the Laurentian region. SAVE-ON-FOODS has expanded its presence in Winnipeg with the addition of two new stores, giving it a total of five locations in the city. The two new stores, located at Pembina Crossing and Kildonan Place, provide a “full traditional grocery offering.” B.C.-based Save-On-Foods opened its first three Winnipeg stores in late 2016. FARM BOY opened its 38th location at Toronto’s Harbourfront in early May. Located in the Queen’s Quay Terminal, the store is Farm Boy’s fourth downtown Toronto location. The fast-growing, Empire-owned chain says it will open another four locations before the end of the year.

AWARDS/RECOGNITION INTRODUCING CANADIAN GROCER’S IMPACT AWARDS. We know Canada’s grocery industry is filled with examples of companies and individuals making a positive impact; now, we’re asking you to shout about these efforts. We’ve launched the Canadian Grocer Impact Awards to recognize initiatives introduced by retailers, suppliers and solution providers that are making a meaningful difference in a range of areas: sustainability; diversity, equity & inclusion; supporting employees; and community service/local impact/ giving back. There’s also an Individual Impact Award to honour those individuals within an organization going above and beyond to make an impact in the areas listed above. Tell us about the great work being done at your company! There is no fee to nominate and honourees will be featured in Canadian Grocer this fall. Visit before July 15, 2021 to nominate. 6  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

News to share? Tell us about your openings, comings and goings, etc. by dropping a line to sfitzgerald@


SUNTERRA MARKET has opened its ninth store in Red Deer, Alta. The two-level, 20,000-sq.-ft. store is a new build located at Bower Place. The Alberta-based retailer’s other locations are in Calgary and Edmonton, and Sunterra president Greg Price told Canadian Grocer: “Any time we open a store, it’s not really a cookie-cutter process for us—we try to customize the offering to the space and community.” At the Red Deer location, he said, there is “a significant focus on prepared foods and staple grocery items as well. But, as we see consumers shift to more fresh foods, the fresh offerings are dominant in the store.”


Sarah Davis

Kelly Fleming

Vince Timpano

Jean Gattuso

Eric Huston

Leadership changes at Loblaw: After 14 years at the company, president Sarah Davis retired in early May. Galen G. Weston has taken on the role of chairman and president of Loblaw; this is in addition to his role as chairman and CEO at George Weston Ltd. In a statement, Loblaw said that given recent shifts in the company’s strategic focus, Weston and Davis agreed it was the right time for Davis to pursue early retirement. Davis was appointed president in 2017. The company also announced that Robert Sawyer has joined Loblaw as chief operating officer and that Richard Dufresne, president and chief financial officer of George Weston Ltd., would expand his role to include CFO of Loblaw. Kelly Fleming has stepped into a new role at Kraft Heinz Canada. Formerly head of grocery at the food company, Fleming is now its chief category and brand officer. She joined Kraft Heinz Canada in 2010. Lassonde has announced Vince Timpano will become its president and chief operating officer on Oct. 1, replacing Jean Gattuso who is retiring after three decades at the company. Timpano has been working as president and CEO of Lassonde Pappas and Company, which is Lassonde’s largest manufacturing and sales subsidiary of ready-to-drink juices and beverages. Mars Food Canada has appointed Eric Huston as its general manager of the Canadian market. Huston joined the company in 2016 and most recently served as its strategic demand leader for the pet care division in Canada. Conagra Brands has promoted Pooya Mozaffari to customer group director – Loblaw/Shoppers Drug Mart, UNFI and private label. Prior to joining Conagra in 2020, Mozaffari held sales and marketing roles at L’Oreal and Pepsi.


Brad Van Laare

Ali Samei

Carlton Cards has announced changes to its leadership team. The company has promoted both Brad Van Laare and Paul Werynski to the roles of vicepresident, Canada. Boosh Food has added to its team with Ali Samei and Cody Kester joining as vice-president of operations and Western sales manager roles, respectively. The B.C.-based company makes plant-based frozen foods.

Remembering Donald C.R. Sobey and W. Galen Weston Canada’s grocery industry has lost two of its legends in recent months. Former Empire president Donald C.R. Sobey passed away in late March at the age of 86. Donald was one of four children of Sobeys founder Frank H. Sobey. He joined the family business in 1957 and served as its president from 1969 until he was appointed chair in 1985. Sobey is remembered for his business savvy as well as his extensive philanthropic work. “Empire and Sobeys owe so much to the leadership, business acumen and passion of Donald,” said Empire president and CEO Michael Medline in a statement. “Donald was a great businessperson as well as a visionary philanthropist who believed in nurturing Canadian artists and supporting the next generation of leaders. We will all miss him.” In April, W. Galen Weston passed away at his home after a long illness; he was 8 0. T he forme r chai r of G e o r g e We s to n L i m i t e d joined the family business in 1972 when his father sent him to Toronto to take over a struggling Loblaw. He retired as chair in 2016 and is known for a lifelong commitment to philanthropy through organizations such as the Weston Family Foundation and the Weston Brain Institute. “My father’s greatest gift was inspiring those around him to achieve more than they thought possible,” said Galen G. Weston, chairman and CEO of George Weston Limited in a statement. “in our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy.”

People SOUPER WOMAN Entrepreneur Lola Adeyemi taps into Africaninspired flavours for her heatand-serve offerings

By Michele Sponagle Photography by Tobi Asmoucha

Who you need to know


hen Lola Adeyemi first arrived in Canada from Nigeria in April 2015 to attend the University of Winnipeg, the shift was a bit of a shock to her system, given Manitoba was in the middle of a deep freeze. “It was my first taste of a Canadian winter,” she recalls. “I cried every other day.” Fast forward to 2021, and things are heating up for Adeyemi. Now based in Toronto, the entrepreneur is enjoying success with It’s Souper, a company she founded that makes soup and chili inspired by the flavours and culinary traditions of Africa. While her products are now expanding into major retailers like Sobeys and Whole Foods Market, the path to this point has been filled with highs, lows, and even moments where she thought she should just give up on her dream of launching a business. If it wasn’t for that dream, she may have stayed in information technology, the career she embarked on after graduation. “I spent 10 years there,” she says. “Though I was good at it, I started feeling like I wanted something more.” Adeyemi initially thought she might launch an African-inspired line of leisure and athletic wear, but the fashion world didn’t seem like a good fit. Friends and colleagues nudged her toward the food business. At office potlucks, her homecooked Nigerian dishes were big hits. Leftovers were quickly divvied up among her co-workers who took the food home and asked for more. “I realized then that I enjoyed sharing my food with people,” she says. “I knew it was something they hadn’t tasted before.” Browsing the aisles of supermarkets, Adeyemi noticed there was a gap in the market for African food. Soup was a logical place to start filling the void. She thought the existing selections were dull and there was room for soups with a global fusion of flavours. Soup also had universal appeal as a comfort food, and was familiar to Adeyemi since it was a staple in her family. Before she developed her final lineup of premium products, she secured her domain name ( and trademark, and designed a logo. Still, she admits: “I didn’t know what I was doing; I knew nothing about the food industry.” Fortunately, at that time (2017), Toronto

30 seconds with … incubator Food Starter offered a program to help startups determine whether their ideas were feasible as businesses. Ademeyi signed up so she could find out. Though she completed the course, she felt out of place as its lone Black female participant and still felt unsure about the path forward, wondering if she should just give up. But a one-hour mentor meeting (included with the program) changed everything. Her mentor, food consultant John Hale, thought she could make her soup company work. “He gave me so much help in terms of next steps and who I needed to talk to,” she explains. “I was able to do a soft launch in the summer of 2018, which generated good buzz. It told me that I had to keep going.” She was able to secure financing and found a co-packer for her products to get things moving, but distribution was still a challenge. Adeyemi was doing it all on her own at first, asking mom-and-pop stores to carry her brand. “It’s a real estate game when it comes to the food space,” she says, “and so I would just keep knocking on doors. Out of 10 stores, maybe two would come back to me.” Today, a growing number of grocers including Fiesta Farms, Foodland, Whole Foods Market and McEwan are stocking her products. And this year, she was able to get listed with Sobeys after her mentor connected her with the Vendor Engagement Program, which aims to bring Canadian-made innovations to its customers. Sobeys recommended that she switch from plastic tubs to plastic pouches, and once she did, things fell into place. Her product lineup—which now includes Moroccan Chickpea & Chicken Stew, Roasted Carrot & Paprika Soup, West African Pepper Sauce and Meat Lovers Chili—is currently available across Ontario, and plans are underway to expand elsewhere in Canada and the United States, along with plans to launch new products. Looking ahead, Adeyemi sees opportunities to share her West African culture on a larger scale. “I’m Nigerian, so many of the recipes I use are based on my experience,” she says. “As It’s Souper grows, my dream is to have chefs from across Africa create amazing recipes we can launch in Canada. This country is a fusion of cultures, so why not carry that over to food? It brings out the best in us.” CG

LOLA ADEYEMI What’s the wisest piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My dad used to say, “Work while you work, play while you play; to be useful and happy, that is the way.” As an entrepreneur, I understand that even more now because I basically work, work, work and totally forget to play. I love to have fun. I love to travel. With the pandemic, we haven’t been able to do that, so trying to really find time to play has been a little hard.

What’s the best part of your job?

I love that I’m creating something for people to enjoy. Sometimes I get frustrated with the never-ending amount of work to deal with, but then I will get a comment from a customer like, “Oh my God, I love this soup. I love this brand, and just keep up the good work.” That keeps me going and I love that I’m able to inspire people, especially within the Black community, to realize that this is possible. I love that I’m creating something that is not just feeding people quick and easy, healthy alternatives, but I’m actually creating, within my generation, people who can see that this is possible.

What’s your favourite soup and how do you enjoy it?

I like the versatility of It’s Souper’s Meat Lovers Chili. I love eating it with some pasta. It’s really nice because it makes it filling enough for dinner, so it’s kind of like a stew that way.

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 9


NEW - Ground and Whole Bean, 300g



By acquiring 51% of the 36-store Longo’s chain, Empire is boosting its Ontario presence



EMPIRE’S ONTARIO EXPANSION In 2018 it scooped up Farm Boy, and now Empire Company has set its sights on another Ontario chain, acquiring 51% of Longo’s (36 stores) and its e-comm business, Grocery Gateway, in a $357-million deal. In a report, BMO Capital Markets’ analyst Peter Sklar wrote that although small, the acquisition makes sense for Empire as “Sobeys is underweight in Ontario and the GTA [Greater Toronto Area].” He added that with the Farm Boy and Longo’s acquisitions, Empire will have added more than 70 grocery stores in Ontario in less than 2.5 years, “which has served as a quick and effective growth strategy” to expand its presence in the province.

Empire says it will be business as usual and customers will see no difference in their Longo’s and Grocery Gateway experiences. Longo’s will be managed separately and continue to be led by president and CEO Anthony Longo. Grocery Gateway and Empire’s e-comm platform Voilà will also operate separately. “We’ve got two great platforms that mean different things to different people,” Empire president and CEO Michael Medline told Canadian Grocer, noting Longo’s long-standing relationship with Grocery Gateway customers. Over time, Medline said he’s sure “we’ll be able to compare notes and learn from each other and grow our business even more.”

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 11


MEASURING SUSTAINABILITY In Canada, a national sustainability index is in the works By Danny Kucharsky Canada’s food is among the safest and celebrate what Canada is doing very most sustainable in the world, according well, Fraser says. For example, Canada’s to a coalition of private and public sector livestock is arguably among the most groups—and they’re leading an effort to sustainable on the planet; and the councreate a national sustainability index for try has some world-leading companies Canada’s agri-food sector that will provide when it comes to sustainability. In 2019, scientific evidence to back these claims. for instance, Maple Leaf Foods—one of Consumers “increasingly want to the members of the coalition—says it know where their food comes from, how became the world’s first major carbon it’s made, produced and supplied,” says neutral food company. “They invested David McInnes, coordinator of Bench- in plant-based companies, changed the marking Canada’s Agri-Food Sustaina- energy-efficiency of some of their plants bility Leadership Project. “We have an [and] mothballed old plants,” Fraser says. opportunity to respond to that.” There’s a lot of momentum for the The index, which will be developed sustainability index, says Greg Northey, by producers and companies in collab- vice-president, corporate affairs at Pulse oration with non-industry and Canada, another coalition government stakeholders, will By  member. A verifiable and credinclude a number of factors, quantifying ible index will showcase “the and will be inspired by the and demon­­ unique characteristics of CanaUnited Nations’ Sustainable strating dian agriculture to the world.” Development Goals and the how food By quantifying and demonParis Accord emissions targets. is produced strating how food is produced “This is a unique and globand where and where it’s coming from, it al-leading initiative, because it’s coming will also give grocers an extra we’re taking a farm-to-retail from, it tool they can provide consumview of sustainability across will give ers, Northey adds. environmental, s o cial and grocers an Canada has the advantage health and economic indicaextra tool that its food system is trusted tors,” McInnes says. they can and its brand is strong interFor grocers, this enables them provide nationally, “but we need to to provide consumers who are consumers back up the claims we make worried about the impact our because the bar for proof is food system has on the health and well rising,” McInnes says. Canada also has being of ecosystems with proof to support to demonstrate to domestic and export food product claims about sustainability, markets that our food system can remain he explains. productive in the face of climate change. The goal is “to give consumers the As concerns grow about the health of sense of trust that our food is sustaina- the global food system, the timing for ble and safe” by providing data that will the index is right, according to McInnes. back up sustainability claims, says Evan “We have an opportunity to respond and Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Insti- create innovative food products that link tute at the University of Guelph, one of nutrition and sustainability.” He hopes the organizations supporting the index. the index will be published in late 2022 A sustainability index will also help or early 2023. 12  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

Fresh innovation AT ITS FRESH WEEK virtual trade show and conference in April, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association named the winners of its 2021 New Product Showcase competition. From “inspired” salads to organic spuds, here are this year’s winning products: Best New Product – The Star Group’s New Inspired Salads

Best Packaging Innovation – Mucci Farms’ Naked Leaf Living Basil

Best Snackable Product – LOOP Mission’s Probiotic Sodas

Best Organic Product – EarthFresh’s Organic Golden, Red & Russet Potatoes

And the Best New Technology product was UNITEC Canada Fruit and Vege­tables Technology Inc.’s Cherry Vision 3.0, which uses high-resolution cameras to scan and select cherries.



To help cut its food waste, Empire plans to roll out the Second Harvest Food Rescue app nationwide  By Danny Kucharsky Empire Company Limited will implement the Second Harvest Food Rescue app in its more than 1,500 Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo and Thrifty Foods locations, plus Voilà, nationwide over the next 18 months, as part of the company’s goal to halve its food waste by 2025. The food rescue app enables businesses with surplus food to easily connect with non-profits that need it. Developed with funding from the Walmart Foundation, the app was launched in 2018 and is now available in every province and territory. “The great thing about this program is that it allows us to donate more fresh food and that’s what we would obviously prefer—to feed families and not landfills,” says Eli Browne, director, corporate sustainability at Sobeys. Browne says food rescue represents one

14  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

of the best opportunities to achieve its goal to cut food waste by 50% by 2025 (compared with 2016). The app’s simplicity in matching available surplus food with community organizations that need it makes it “the eHarmony of food,” says Second Harvest CEO Lori Nikkel. Empire completed a successful 12-week pilot project starting last July using the app in 16 stores in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and British Columbia. During the pilot, the company donated more than 94,000 meals to more than 30 community organizations. Baked goods, bread, produce and dairy were the top donated items, followed closely by proteins. Some stores were able to donate fresh food that they never could before, Browne says. The app will be deployed on a banner-­ by-banner basis, starting with Sobeys. “We intend to have all of our grocery banners, warehouses and our Voilà customer fulfillment centre completed within the next 18 months,” Browne says. To help stores adopt the app, the company will have a dedicated food rescue coordinator who will provide support to stores and community organizations, she adds. Once implemented, Empire expects about 31 million pounds of food will be rescued annually. This will divert the equivalent of approximately 41 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Aside from connecting surplus food with the places it needs to go, the app provides trackable information on the amount of food rescue in each store, Browne says. Second Harvest’s Nikkel explains that available information includes the monetary value of the food and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are being averted through donations. Empire’s food rescue partnership with Second Harvest will have “an enormous impact,” Nikkel says. “They’re showing leadership here. When they can do something, it encourages other businesses to do it as well. And that’s really important.” CG

The future of work is hybrid

Flexible work is here to stay. How can companies prepare for this shift? As remote work became the norm in 2020, many were thrilled to ditch the commute and now want to work from home forever; others were hit with “Zoom exhaustion” and can’t wait to go back to the office; and some want a mix of both. In a recent Microsoft report, the tech giant says “hybrid work”—where some work in the office and others work from home—is the way of the future. Through a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index highlights trends to consider as we enter an era of hybrid work. Here are a few key takeaways: Flexible work is here to stay. Workers want the best of both worlds—more than 70% want remote work options, while more than 65% crave more in-person time. As a result, 66% of businesses are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work. Business leaders are out of touch with staff and may need a wake-up call. Sixty-one per cent of business leaders say they’re “thriving” right now (as opposed to “surviving/struggling”), which is 23 percentage points higher than those without decision-making authority. Just 44% of working moms say they’re thriving, while only 36% of new employees and 33% of single people are thriving. Gen Z may need to be re-energized. More likely to be single and new to their careers, workers between the ages of 18 and 25 seem to be having a tougher time than other generations right now—60% say they’re “surviving/struggling” as opposed to “thriving.” Ensuring gen Z feels a sense of purpose and well-being will be crucial in the shift to hybrid, says the report. Authenticity will spur productivity and well-being. One in five workers have met their colleagues’ pets or families virtually, while one in six (17%) have cried with a colleague this year. Such interactions may help foster a more comfortable workplace; compared to a year ago, 39% say they’re more likely to be their full, authentic selves at work. And people who interacted with co-workers more closely than before actually reported higher productivity and better overall well-being.—Carol Neshevich

Call for nominations! We know Canada’s grocery industry is filled with examples of companies and individuals making a positive impact. We’re asking you to shout out about these efforts. The Canadian Grocer Impact Awards 2021 will recognize initiatives introduced by retailers, suppliers and solution providers that are making a meaningful difference in a range of areas from helping the planet to supporting employees and communities. No matter if your company is big or small (we recognize that companies of any size can make a positive impact) we encourage you to take a few minutes to nominate a company initiative in the following areas:

•• •• •

Sustainability (food waste, ethical sourcing, energy efficiency initiatives etc.) Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Supporting Employees Community Service/Local Impact/Giving Back Plus Individual Impact Award (recognizing those individuals within an organization going above and beyond to make an impact in any of the areas listed above) Tell us about the amazing work being done at your company. Honourees will be featured in Canadian Grocer this fall.

Submit your nominations at DEADLINE TO ENTER: JULY 15, 2021 Have questions? Please contact Shellee Fitzgerald, editor-in-chief, Canadian Grocer at

Mastering the Art


of Merchandising

he Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’ (CFIG) Master Merchandiser Awards Program honours and recognizes best point-of-sale merchandising in the grocery industry. It enables retailers and supportive manufacturers the opportunity to stimulate purchase by building effective displays, promotions, and events. A total of 14 prizes were awarded (3 different store size groupings and 5 different merchandising categories). A panel of experienced industry judges determined category winners based on: creativity & visual appeal; effective use of signage; display shopability; effective cross-merchandising; and supporting manufacturer compliance. “The Master Merchandiser Awards Program had a record year for entries, with the displays creating not only an impactful shopping experience for customers, but also resulting in incremental sales and customer loyalty,” said Tom Shurrie, president and CEO, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers. To submit your merchandising display for the 2021 Master Merchandiser Awards, visit Deadline for submissions: August 13, 2021

Multi-Store Internal Contest Medium Surface Gold Colemans Food Centre, Botwood, NL Coleman Family, Supplier – Kruger Products Description: 2nd Place winner for Scotties Tournament of Hearts display contest. Large Surface Gold IGA Lamoureux, QC Yves Lamoureux Supplier: Manon Lauzon, General Mills Description: IGA Lamoureux displayed the toppings for the perfect taco on a table in the produce section. In partnership with Cheerios, Old El Paso offered a rebate of $5.00 when both products were purchased.

Themed Event Small Surface Gold South Hill Fine Foods, Moose Jaw, SK Perry Chambers and Store Team Supplier: Carey Bailey – Saputo Dairy Products Description: Back to school themed Saputo display. Medium Surface Gold Powell’s Supermarket, Bay Roberts, NL John Mercer Supplier: Geoff Tessier – Kraft Heinz Description: Powell’s Bay Roberts got the community involved with a themed Kraft Hockeyville display. Customers were able to shoot on hockey nets to win prizes. The display helped promote awareness for Bay Roberts as a candidate for Hockeyville. Large Surface Gold Save-On-Foods Orchard Plaza, Kelowna, BC Scott Nazaruk, Eric Falkenberg Supplier: Bryan Haffenden – PepsiCo Kyle Joslin – Frito Lay Description: Super Bowl 2020. The best offensive move in football is the stiff arm. When running with the ball, to prevent getting tackled, you jam your opponent in the face with a stiff arm. It is the 54th Super Bowl which was incorporated on his back of the jersey to make it look like his name and number.


Perimeter Display


Small Surface Gold Watrous Co-op, Watrous, SK Carl Danku Supplier: Carol Rissling – Kraft Heinz Description: Our Kraft Heinz Hockeyville Display for 2020 completely took over the Bakery Department!

Small Surface Gold Westfort Foods, Thunder Bay, ON Rob Van Dyk, Jeff Van Dyk, Supplier: Dan Oleksuk – Kraft Heinz, Lisa Simkanin - McCormick, and ConAgra Brands. Description: Multiple company bbq display front of store for the summer. Display changes on a monthly basis with added bbq sauces and summer products.

Medium Surface Gold IGA Famille Drolet et Paquette inc., Coteau du lac, QC Ms. Paquette et Mr. Drolet Supplier: Catherine Gougeon – General Mills Description: There was a Mexican Taco Evening held every day at IGA Famille Drolet et Paquette. General Mills brought a preview of Mexico to Coteaudu-Lac (Quebec) and the clients loved it! Large Surface Gold Longo’s, Aurora, ON Supplier: Adam O’Driscoll – Maple Leaf Foods Description: Buy any 3 packs of Maple Leaf Natural Top Dogs & get 2 free packs of Maple Leaf 50/50 Burgers (July 23 to Aug 5).

Medium Surface Gold Quality Foods, Parksville, BC Darcy Ginter Supplier: Paul Little – Coca-Cola and Old Dutch Description: Quality Foods Parksville and Coca Cola built a Halloween pumpkin display of A&W 12 packs behind the tills. The display had a fully shoppable bench of 12 pack pop in front and towers of Old Dutch chips on the wings.Our customers loved the effort the store put in to creating the Halloween theme displays. Large Surface Gold Save-On-Foods, Park & Tilford, Northern Vancouver, BC Sean Cantin, Supplier: Scott Hudson – Kraft Heinz Craig Britton – Maple Leaf and Weston Foods Description: Massive 360 degree National Hot Dog Display featuring a boxing ring with wacky waving inflatable tube guys fighting...Heinz Ketchup vs Heinz mustard. Customers enter a random draw to win a Kraft Heinz BBQ.

Single Manufacturer Small Surface Gold Colemans Food Centre - Caribou Rd, Corner Brook, NL Coleman Family, Supplier: ConAgra Brands Description: A Chinese New Year’s display supporting Conagra Brands. This waterfall display was placed in the main store entrance to help promote the event and product which was featured in your ads. This display contains over 200 cases of product and fresh produce to complement meal ideas. The colour decor and props were added to catch the shopper’s attention. Medium Surface Gold Longo’s York Mills, Toronto, ON Supplier: Jisun Kwon - Nestlé Description: The best of best Halloween Display in TOWN! Large Surface Gold Colemans Gardens Market, Corner Brook, NL Coleman Family, Supplier: PepsiCo Foods Description: Colemans Garden Market and PepsiCo Foods teamed up to present shoppers with this massive Super Bowl 54 display that made it easy for fans to stock up for watching the big game.


FOOD BYTES ||  Joel Gregoire

What brands stand for matters more than ever

Brands need to have clear positions on social and environmental issues and show how they can be a force for good, says research While COVID-19 dominated the headlines in 2020, and thus far in 2021, the pandemic has not been the only narrative. The issue of racial injustice in the United States bubbled up to the surface, with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in the spring/summer of 2020 being





How often do you make purchases based on a brand’s reputation for ethical business practices?



the sparks that ignited a wave of protests. Looking abroad, the wildfires that raged in Australia early in 2020, along with other climate events put an exclamation point on the importance of climate change. These are just a couple of the issues in what has been described as a “year from hell.” Given the seriousness and extent of such challenges, it might seem trite to think of brands as being a vehicle for positive change, but Mintel’s research shows they can play a role—and this is highlighted by the fact three in five Canadians say it’s important that a company’s values match their own. Individuals are, in a sense, relatively powerless to bring about positive change, but in aligning with something bigger than themselves, they hold sway. This applies to both name and store brands through the values they promote and the vision they offer. Mintel’s Canadian report, The Ethical Consumer, offers guidance on what matters to shoppers when it comes to ethics and values. Feedback shows Canadians prioritize the environment, general honesty and paying employees a living wage as their top areas of concern. In terms of claims that matter, “made in Canada,” “locally made,” “made from natural ingredients,” “not tested on animals” and “sustainably made” top the list. Finally, the report also shows the majority (71%) of Canadians agree that brands can change society for the better. Having a set of standards that account for these considerations and embedding them into brand strategies—be it around responsible or local sourcing, the treatment of animals or sustainability—will continue to evolve from being a “nice to do” to a “need to do.” Finally, prioritizing ethics also makes good business sense, with nearly half of Canadians surveyed indicating the reputation of a company, when it comes to ethics, impacts their purchase decisions often or all of the time. Focusing on ethical practices is also a good investment in the future, with younger adults being more likely to identify ethics as being a factor for them when deciding what they buy. While the events of 2020 put a spotlight on ethics in terms of how workers are treated as well as in other areas, its importance was building prior to COVID-19’s onset. Feedback shows it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to have clear positions on social and environmental issues, and how they convey them to be a force for good. CG




18  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

Joel Gregoire is associate director, Food & Drink at Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency. Based in Toronto, Joel researches and writes reports on Canada’s food and drink industry. @JoelDGregoire

SHOPPER SENSE ||  Hanif Mohamed

Time to rationalize

With the potential to eliminate waste and boost profitability, the case for streamlining assortment is stronger than ever

Changes in consumer behaviour brought about by the pandemic require retailers to reassess their assortment within their private-label brands and national brand offerings

Over the years, there has been a proliferation of brands, products and SKUs in the marketplace as retailers with private-label brands and manufacturers compete to satisfy the consumer appetite for innovative products and experiences. But for retailers, more is not more; when this process is not managed properly, it increases the likelihood of out of stocks resulting in lost sales and negative customer experiences. Now is the time for retailers and manufacturers in Canada to reassess and rationalize their assortment to better meet the changing needs of consumers and maximize sales and profitability. Globally, there are structural challenges with assortment across many CPG categories. In Canada, 85% of SKUs in the household care category contribute to less than 2% of overall category sales—pointing to the excess in non-performing products and variations that exist within just this one category alone. The same can be seen across other key categories such as pet care (83%) and baby care (77%), illustrating that this is not an isolated incident, but rather one that needs to be addressed by the industry. CHANGES IN CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR ASSORTMENT Changes in consumer behaviour brought about by the pandemic require retailers to reassess their assortment within their private-label brands and national brand offerings. Some things to consider: • Newly constrained, existing constrained and cautiously insulated consumers are streamlining their budgets and have become more discerning about what, where, when and how they purchase products. • With the rise in e-commerce and the increased trust in online shopping platforms, shoppers are

20  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

visiting physical stores less often, and when they do visit, they come prepared with lists and they spend less time browsing the shelves than they did before the pandemic. • Financially impacted consumers have less money to spend and will, therefore, be more focused on essentials. That doesn’t mean they will not have the desire to indulge once in a while. The challenge for manufacturers and retailers is to ensure the products and brands in their portfolio cater to consumers at all ends of the economic spectrum, while also remaining cost-efficient and being selective in non-essential assortment. ASSORTMENT RATIONALIZATION PROVIDES A TRIPLE WIN The case for assortment rationalization is extremely strong. A recent NielsenIQ BASES study highlighted that approximately 30% of promising innovations do not get enough support to realize their full potential. Complementary studies by Bain & Company show that a SKU reduction can result in savings across supply chain and inventory management. Achieving the right mix of assortment will also reduce labour expenditures. When retailers are able to manage assortment, a number of additional positive benefits are also recognized including the back room running more effectively, improvement in shrink management and overall store efficiency. The savings derived from assortment optimization aren’t just theoretical either. For example, a client in North America was recently able to optimize the category assortment of SKUs using the same space to identify a growth opportunity in the confectionery category of 9.5%. This example is a true indicator of having the right SKUs on-shelf for consumers when they want them. It’s worth noting that rationalizing assortment is not just about eliminating SKUs with low sales. It requires a more sophisticated and data-driven approach that is focused on the idea of incrementality, which means building an assortment that can drive profitable growth while drawing the interest of more shopper segments (through niche products, for example). By correctly identifying which SKUs to retire and which to keep, not only can the industry focus production and supply chain efforts on incremental brands and SKUs, but they can also eliminate waste, increase profitability and reinvest profits into new product and category innovation, which will ultimately capture new shoppers. This is a win for the shopper, a win for the manufacturer and a win for the retailers. CG

Hanif Mohamed is senior vice-president of retail services at NielsenIQ in Toronto.


Consumers’ changing priorities

Value, convenience and selection trump eco-­consciousness for many COVID-stressed Canadians

What’s at stake, though, in such grocery wind changes is something many Canadians have traditionally held near and dear to their hearts: our ecoconsciousness

We are now more than a year into Canada’s fight to control COVID-19, and consumer data suggests that grocery shoppers’ priorities have changed—and relatively quickly, at that. Specifically, we’ve learned that a high degree of Canadian consumers’ grocery shopping behaviour is being driven by the quest for value, convenience and product selection. These drivers are certainly not new for those shoppers who have always been on the lookout for everyday products at bargain prices—hence underlining the value discount banners like Dollarama bring to budget-conscious Canadians. Yet, in a marketplace dominated by health, economic and food security concerns, this refocusing of priorities has been a boon for certain retail banners that have the size, scale and buying power to deliver the magic combination of value for price, convenience and broad-based product assortment that’s bringing more grocery dollars their way. Take Amazon, for example: the Bezos brainchild has long hung its proverbial hat on its ability to offer a huge assortment of categories and products at unbeatable prices using a variety of convenient delivery methods. It’s little wonder, then, that the retail juggernaut takes first place in overall online shopping experience as well as seven of 12 Net Promoter Score (NPS) attributes, including user-friendly app/site, order accuracy and price. (NPS is a trusted research methodology that provides an index with which it measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products and/or services to others based on their experience.) Meanwhile, when we look strictly at Canadian grocery banners, Costco comes out on top, having effectively won over pandemic-era shoppers based on the value and convenience the banner is able to deliver for both online and in-store shoppers.

What’s at stake, though, in such grocery wind changes is something many Canadians have traditionally held near and dear to their hearts: our eco-consciousness. Even during the pandemic, with tightened budgets and emotions running high, 90% of consumers, according to Caddle’s research (May 2020), thought environmental sustainability was important. And, about 87% considered recycling to be “very” or “somewhat important,” with two-thirds of consumers prioritizing sustainable packaging (according to March 2021 data). Amazon has come under fire for its returns policy that sees a significant proportion of products sent to landfill. Indeed, such policies already seem to be driving the “waste economy,” with purchases arriving quickly but often in separate shipments that further contribute to excess packaging and plastic filler going into garbage bins across the country. In this light, it leaves us to wonder what will happen when Amazon starts shipping fresh products to Canadian consumers, as they’ll inevitably do in the coming months. It’s highly doubtful that such a successful retailer will change its policies. But even more curious is, given the added convenience of being able to shop for household necessities alongside fresh grocery, will Canadians who have already bought into Amazon’s model even care? Costco, on the other hand, may be a more eco-­ conscious alternative. Though the larger product formats offered via big-box shopping often necessitate driving to stores (which leads to increased fossil fuel consumption), the nature of large-format purchases likely contributes to fewer shopping trips overall. Plus, Costco’s in-store pallet displays mean they’ve fallen into a more sustainable retail model, whether they’ve planned it this way or not. So, while some countries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic are slowly but surely opening back up, Canada still has a way to go before it resumes business as usual. And truth be told, “business as usual” in grocery may never be what it was for the majority of Canadian consumers. In the face of ongoing uncertainties, it’s unknown how long it may take for eco-consciousness to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, as consumers focus on their immediate health, safety and livability concerns. In the meantime, we’ll need to keep a finger on the pulse of Canadian shopper intent and behaviour. CG

Ransom Hawley, former packaged goods leader, is founder and CEO at Caddle Inc., the largest mobile-first insights platform that rewards Canadians for sharing data and engaging with brands.

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 21

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DCI President and CEO Barry Lanteigne with DCI Chair David La Mantia.

Paving the way for independent grocers DCI celebrates 40 years and prepares for many more ahead


elebrating a milestone anniversary during a global pandemic may not be ideal, but for Distribution Canada Inc., turbulent times like these just underscore the staying power of an organization that’s as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. Founded in 1981 as a buying group for a handful of independent grocers, DCI has evolved to become a significant partner for independent grocers across the country. Now 74 members strong, representing more than 1,000 locations across Canada, DCI’s mission to foster collaboration between its members, manufacturers, distributors and other industry

stakeholders has proved fruitful indeed. In those early years, DCI focused on helping members consolidate purchase volumes with rebates, so small independents could compete with chains on a more level playing field. But as direct store delivery and bigger purchase minimums became standard, DCI had to evolve further. “We needed to establish solid relationships with wholesale partners such as Loblaws, CJR and Sobeys, so we could continue servicing our members,” says DCI President and CEO Barry Lanteigne, who is also director of operations at the Canadian Independent Grocery Buyers Alliance (CIGBA).


Over the decades, DCI has gone on to offer independent grocers’ significant cost-savings that go well beyond food companies. These include services around benefits, insurance, equipment, energy management and even consulting services, including payroll and accounting services so members can negotiate better credit rates. “We’ve also been working diligently on providing more for our members by reaching out to our partners and asking them to share opportunity buys on a monthly basis,” says Lanteigne. “This generates more transactions for our partners, while getting more volume and sales into our member stores.” DCI Chair David La Mantia says he originally joined the organization in 2000 for the group buying opportunities. But since then, the management team and members have become a valuable networking resource that continually keep him informed on current market trends, new opportunities and industry best practices. "As a single-store operator, the value of our annual DCI membership is returned to us many times over," he says. "DCI provides us with the tools to help us compete in a marketplace increasingly dominated by large, consolidated players." Past-chair Dave Powell, president and CEO of Atlantic Grocery Distributors and Powell’s Supermarkets has been a DCI member for the last 27 years. He says DCI’s ability to negotiate on behalf of members had been a key driver in helping small independents stay competitive and relevant. “That’s the allure of DCI and what has kept it so successful all of these years,” he says. “DCI has been a great ally of independent grocers in Canada for the past 40 years and it’s a large part of the success of our company and many small grocers across this country.”

La Mantia's Country Market, Lindsay, Ontario


The fact that so many independent grocers have been with DCI for decades speaks volumes. “My father Carmen was there when DCI first started because as a small grocer, there was a lack of ability to procure product or get face-to-face with vendors,” says Giancarlo Trimarchi, managing partner at Vince’s Market. “Your business is growing and you’re looking for an opportunity to work with prominent brands, but you don’t how to get into that field—that’s where DCI fits in.” Without this organization, he says lots of those key introductions would never have happened—or would have taken a lot longer to transpire. “DCI has served its purpose for many years and continues to do so.” Now that Vince’s has grown to five stores in Ontario and has established some solid supplier relationships, Trimarchi says DCI continues to serve a purpose in providing a network of like-minded independents eager to share insights on what’s working in their various markets. “There is a real collaboration that happens and it’s great to have that peer network to share ideas,” he says. The ability to share problems and find viable solutions is something Gordon Dean, president of Mike Dean’s Super Food Stores, also appreciates about being part of DCI. Like Trimarchi, his father was a long-time DCI member and today, Dean counts on being able to connect with other members to share perspectives, especially as a small grocer in rural Ontario. “It’s refreshing to have someone else to bounce ideas off of,” he says. “We’re all open to discuss what’s going wrong with the business and how we can fix it.” Lanteigne says DCI’s in-person meetings have really helped connect members and create long-lasting

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friendships. “In the independent channel, we’re all here to stick together and work together so these guys have no problem picking up the phone and contacting each other when they’re looking for advice,” he says. “DCI really is here to help connect people and get them the information they need.” To that end, members also receive regular communications via a quarterly newsletter that highlights member successes and partner innovations that are coming down the pipe.

Chair: David La Mantia, La Mantia’s Country Market, ON Vice-Chair: Robert Galati, Galati Market Fresh, ON Secretary/Treasurer: Nigel Oliver, Vince’s Market, ON Past-Chair: Dave Powell, Atlantic Grocery Distributors, NFLD Directors: Tony Cataldi, Cataldi Fresh Market, ON

La Mantia's Country Market, Lindsay, Ontario

Craig Cavin, Country Grocer (IIBG), BC


Now that Covid-19 restrictions are impacting in-person events, DCI is hosting webinars on a variety of topics for members. A recent discussion focused on impending legislation banning single-use plastics, and featured presenters who shared tips on how they made it work at the store level. “It gave our Ontario members an idea of what this transition could look like in their own stores—and provided an opportunity to share resources,” says Lanteigne. He says throughout the pandemic this past year, providing communication and resources to members has been a top priority. “We assisted in locating personal protective equipment (PPE) and when there was a shortage of paper products at the beginning of the pandemic, we worked with our partners to secure inventory to help get them through it,” he says. The organization is also working on hosting its first ever virtual conference with CIGBA this year, from June 16-29. Partner booths will be open 24-hoursa-day over the two-week period so members can view presentation decks and browse through new products and Show Specials. “Here we’re looking for our partners to supply aggressive opportunity buys, to get our members engaged and to create volume for both sides,” says Lanteigne. For its vendor partners, DCI has been playing a significant role in helping facilitate new product launches and various campaigns across Canada’s independent grocery market throughout the decades. Currently the organization has an impressive list of vendor programs for members to choose from. “DCI helps us put programs together and then present them to their members with contests and cross-promotions to get our message out,” says Stephen Carroll, business development manager at Maple Leaf Foods. “It’s a good cooperative relationship because we both have the same goals in terms of setting targets and looking for growth.” Carrol says the organization has also provided the opportunity to see that small independents have a bigger voice when put together. In fact, he says Maple Leaf is dedicated to serving its independent partners just as much as its bigger retailers. “We do a lot of work through distributors, but we also

Gordon Dean, Mike Dean Super Food Stores, ON Rocco Commisso, Commisso’s Fresh Foods, ON


Rick Rabba, Rabba Fine Foods, ON

Independents have a passion for food and merchandising and servicing their customers.

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see independents as a source of real growth for the future,” he says. “Just in Ontario alone we have three full-time staff dedicated to independents and another 10 who check in on them regularly.” It’s really a win-win for both sides, says Lanteigne. “We have the ability to communicate these programs to our members quickly and so our partners are able to execute them faster too,” he says.


Lanteigne, who was on the board of directors for five years before taking on the leadership role at DCI in 2019, says he’s had a passion for the independent channel throughout his more than 30 years in the industry. He says starting off his career as a produce clerk and moving onto management positions has allowed him to get a courtside view of all facets of the business. “Independents have a passion for food and merchandising and servicing their customers,” he says. “That’s why they are so successful at what they do.” Looking ahead, he points to an ongoing need to work with wholesalers on behalf of members as consumerpackaged goods companies continue to eliminate direct store delivery. He also points to a growing focus on prepared foods and fresh department offerings as more and more people opt to dine at home. On-line ordering and delivery, click and collect and the use of social media to attract different demographics are other trends rapidly gaining favour in the industry, he adds. Although grocery has seen massive consolidations happening across the country, Lanteigne is confident that the role for independents in Canada remains

strong, and DCI will be committed to supporting the sector for the long-term. “As we aim to share the benefits of our programs and partner offerings, we’re also looking to expand and help local producers as well who want to get into the market quickly,” says Lanteigne. “So, we’re not only looking to grow our members but our vendors too.” For the future, Lanteigne is also hoping to bring more ethnic grocers into the DCI mix to broaden diversity throughout the organization. “There are independent businesses everywhere, and I want to make sure we can provide benefits to everyone,” he says. With that in mind, even after 40 years the future looks bright for DCI. For more information about DCI contact Barry Lanteigne at 905-681-3933 or barry@

Celebrating our members across Canada 49th Parallel Grocery Ltd., BC A. Lococo Wholesale Ltd., ON Atikokan Foods, ON Atlantic Grocery Dist. Limited, NL Avondale Stores Ltd., ON B&H Your Community Grocer, ON Battaglia's Marketplace, ON Brant Food Centre Inc., ON Canoe Fresh Foods Ltd, ON Carling Fruit Inc.- Produce Depot, ON Central Meat Market Ltd., ON Cataldi Fresh Market Inc., ON Chens Enterprises Corporation, ON Chesley Grocery Store, ON Commisso's Fresh Foods, ON Copperside Foods (J&F Distributors & Shoppers Wholesale), BC Concord Food Centre Inc, ON Cousin's Foods Inc., ON

DiPietro Fresh Meat & Delicatessen, ON Doyle's Marketplace Corporation, ON EuroMarché, QC Drayton Food Market, ON FKK Wholesale Cash & Carry Inc, ON Farmer's Pick, ON Farmboy Markets Ltd., ON Fiesta Farms Inc., ON Galati Market Fresh Inc., ON Fine Foods Advertising, MB A. M. Food Fare. MB Garden Basket Food Markets Inc., ON Garden Foods Bolton Ltd., ON Galleria Supermarket, ON Glenburnie Grocery, ON The Geddes Street Market, ON The Garden Market Ltd., ON Highland Farms Inc., ON Coppa's Fresh Market, ON

IC Foodworld, ON Island Ind. Buying Group Ltd., BC La Mantia's Country Market, ON Bonanza Supermarket, QC Kitchen Table Incorporated (The), ON Kudrinko's Ltd., ON Lady York Foods, ON Latcham P.M.L. Foods, ON Lee & Maria's, ON Marilu's Market., ON Midway Grocery Ltd (George's Market), ON Mike Dean Local Grocer, ON Pemberton Valley Supermarket Ltd.,BC Pino's Get Fresh, ON Pasquier, QC Pupo's Food Market Ltd., ON Pusateri's Fine Foods, ON Pym's Village Market Ltd, ON Raj Grocers Inc., ON


Quickie Convenience Stores Corp., ON Sayers Foods Limited, ON Schell's Market, ON Sincere Trading of KBA Coop Ltd., ON Sharpe Food Ltd., ON Southbank Fruit Inc.- Produce Depot, ON Stong's Markets GP Ltd., BC Summerhill Market, ON Sunripe Farms Produce, ON Sun Valley Supermarket Inc., ON Mourelatos, QC The J. Rabba Co. Ltd., ON Clayton's Heritage Market, BC The Apple Market, ON Vince's Country Market, ON Western Foods/Village Mkt. Ltd., BC Your Community Grocer, ON Zechner's Limited, ON


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Cover story By Shellee Fitzgerald

THE How it’s STATE holding OF up, THE and GROCERY what’s INDUSTRY next IT’S MID-APRIL and parts of the country are grappling with a third wave of the pandemic with surging COVID cases, shutdowns, and more disruption. An appropriate time, we thought, to catch up with three of the industry’s leaders to get a sense of how grocery is faring in these unusual times. Canadian Grocer hosted a roundtable discussion with Diane J. Brisebois, president and CEO of Retail Council of Canada (RCC); Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada (FHCP); and Tom Shurrie president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG). We asked them about everything from supply chains to workers to how to hold on to gains made during the pandemic, and the big challenges and opportunities ahead. Here’s what we learned: While the last 13 months have been marked by shutdowns, lockdowns and challenges aplenty, all three leaders agree the industry—now contending with a wave of COVID-19 marked by aggressive variants and surging numbers of infections—has done remarkably well. In terms of keeping goods flowing, the supply chain has been resilient, said RCC’s Brisebois. “I think we often take our supply chain in Canada for granted.” While the early days of the pandemic saw panicked shoppers clearing store shelves of essentials such as toilet paper, flour and pasta, shoppers have been more measured in subsequent waves and the supply chain has been able to keep up with demand. 30  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021


How the industry is holding up

That said, CFIG’s Shurrie noted there are still independent grocers in remote areas experiencing challenges accessing goods, a problem that they’re “working through” with the supplier community. “There are the odd hiccups,” admits FHCP’s Graydon. “But for the most part, I think things have been pretty good. There isn’t a lot of volatility in order patterns. I also think a lot of the retailers have got a pretty good grasp with regards to forecasting” through the crisis, he said, adding that a lot of retailers (with a few exceptions) “have been very fair in regards to their application of compliance fines around fill rates.” Despite the challenges grocery has faced over the pandemic, RCC’s Brisebois points to one “silver lining” of the crisis being the leading role grocers assumed. “What was challenging and remarkable was how quickly grocers pivoted, because all of a sudden they became the centre of the community. So not only were they selling grocery items as they did before, but they were also fulfilling some of the needs that no longer were available within the restaurant or foodservice sectors.”



Holding onto sales gains post-pandemic

With restaurants shuttered and consumers stuck at home for long stretches during COVID, grocery retailers have seen big sales gains as consumers shifted their spending. In the early days of the crisis, sales were record-setting with NielsenIQ noting that the week of March 21, 2020 saw nearly $3 billion in retail sales, translating to an increase of +54% compared to the previous period. While sales have levelled off over the course of the pandemic, retailers are still reporting healthy growth. But as vaccines hold out the promise of a return to normal life for consumers and more food options open up, how do grocers hold on to some of the gains they’ve made? “Grocery will lose much of its 2020 momentum over the next decade if it doesn’t respond decisively to the persistent pressure and looming disruption in the sector,” Bain & Co. warned in a report last fall. “I think you’re going to see a lot more indoor dining in grocery store environments,” said RCC’s Brisebois, when asked how grocers might protect recent gains. “A lot of great thought leaders in retail are talking about a retail Renaissance and smart grocers are really going to, I think, marry their role as essential food providers with a sense of community and entertainment.” We’ll see this reflected not only in store designs and layouts, but also in the kinds of services that will be provided, she said. “If I’m sitting in their chair and strategically looking at the next couple of years and saying: ‘how do I make sure to keep those dollars that I gained?’ then it’s about replicating that experience that would have existed in





Cover story

the other sector that was closed, and doing it better.” Shurrie believes grocers also have an opportunity to woo customers with health and wellness and fresh offerings, much of it done with a Canadian-made, local push. “But we’ve got to be realistic, too; there’s going to be pent-up demand,” he said, among consumers who will want to get out of the house and socialize and visit restaurants. “And our grocers are going to have to do what they did before COVID. They’re going to have to innovate; they are going to have to continue to listen to what their consumers want, and work with the manufacturing partners to create a unique experience.” Graydon, meanwhile, said he was optimistic a lot of consumers’ at-home eating behaviours will stick. While he agrees there’s pent-up demand, he said restaurants have taken a thumping, and with massive closures (about 10,000 have shuttered since the onset of the crisis, Restaurants Canada reported earlier this year) “there’s not going to be as many options.” He added that Canada’s grocers are innovative and have a knack for finding solutions, and will do everything in their power to hold on to as much of the gains they’ve made as they can. He sees categories such as breakfast, which has had a “massive rebound” at grocery, as just one opportunity post-pandemic. Breakfast was in decline at retail, he said, but categories like cereal are selling “tremendously” better than they did 18 months ago. Manufacturers have responded with a slew of innovative items to appeal to the at-home breakfast crowd. “We may not keep all the gains [made] but that doesn’t mean it has to go back to preCOVID levels of sales for some of these categories.” And a big question within all of this is what the future of work might look like. Scores of companies have announced their intention of either shifting to 100% remote work or offering a hybrid model where workers will be in the office only part of the time. “That will have a substantial impact on the grocery sector and on the restaurant sector,” said Brisebois. “I would not want to compete against the grocery retailers—they are tough, they’re very innovative.”

The workforce: vaccines and mental health

The plight of the industry’s workers was top-of-mind for all three leaders, and for good reason. A relatively slow vaccine rollout in Canada that saw only about 20% of the population receiving at least one dose of the vaccination by mid-April meant essential grocery industry workers in many areas of the country still didn’t have access to vaccines as governments stubbornly kept to their age-based strategies. “We need to make sure that they are on the front line of getting the vaccinations,” stressed CFIG’s Shurrie. “The vaccinations are crucial to make sure that the supply chain of food keeps moving forward in wave three,” he added, noting that prioritizing vaccines 32  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

“What was challenging and remarkable was how quickly grocers pivoted, because all of a sudden they became the centre of the community. So not only were they selling grocery items as they did before, but they were also fulfilling some of the needs that no longer were available within the restaurant or foodservice sectors”

for grocery workers gives them “more security to come to work every day.” FHCP’s Graydon echoed those comments and said the government needs to “get its act together” and prioritize key retail and manufacturing employees. “We’re seeing some very concerning numbers in regards to the community transfer of COVID within manufacturing facilities and it’s starting to become difficult to continue, in some cases, full operations in some of the plants. As you start to see numbers [of infections] in the 4,000 range per day in Ontario, it is going to get into these vulnerable environments very quickly and it’s starting to have some impact.” And in this age of anxiety, it’s not surprising that mental health has become a critical concern for grocers and manufacturers as they try to find ways to support a growing number of exhausted, burnt out, stressed out employees. “It’s not a new issue, but it certainly is an issue that’s now front and centre,” said Brisebois. The big question is how to keep employees healthy—not only are they dealing with anxiety related to the pandemic, she said, but they’re working differently and managing their personal lives differently. FHCP’s Graydon said the deterioration of people’s mental health would be one of the most important impacts of the pandemic. “When you look at the amount of people accessing benefits within their organizations for mental health support, it’s scary.” And when you consider the hundreds of thousands of people employed in retail alone in this country, Brisebois added, “This is not a small issue; this is going to be probably one of the greatest employment challenges that our members will have in the next three to five years.” She said RCC has had a lot of calls from members asking them to benchmark who’s doing what. “Even the large insurance and health companies are talking to us about what are the other things that are not included currently in employee benefits that we need to think about. I think these will be great challenges, both from a human resources perspective and also from a regulatory perspective, because we’re already seeing some provinces looking at their Workers’ Compensation regulations, their labour regulations. I think there’s no playbook, this is why it’s going to be so challenging.”

The road ahead: pricing, rising costs and opportunities, too

When asked about other big challenges ahead for the nation’s grocers and manufacturers, Shurrie said keeping pricing in line would be a big one. Over the course of the pandemic, grocers have kept pricing in check, he said, with no big spikes and reined-in promotional pricing. “It [pricing] didn’t go up a great deal. It followed, basically, the overall inflationary

trends.” Graydon agreed, adding that Canada’s retailers handled pricing well, compared to other parts of the world. “Here in Canada, I think our retailers really do understand their consumers,” he said, adding they don’t want to alienate customers with price hikes in the short term. “Because it’s a marathon, and they want them as long-term customers.” From a manufacturers’ perspective, Graydon pointed to rising costs coming from multiple areas as a looming challenge. There are labour costs to consider and manufacturers have to pay more to attract and maintain people, not to mention input costs that “are just going through the roof.” Fundamentally, he added, these things are out of manufacturers’ control. As an example, he points to the cost of some oils required to make deodorant, which have increased by 40%. “And it’s just all the way across the board, the costs are getting higher and higher.” Manufacturers can’t assume all of those costs, he said, some of those costs will need to be passed on to the retailers who, in turn, will have to pass them on to the consumers. “And I think we’re in for some inflationary pricing over the next little while because of these factors,” he said. “We need to try to moderate inflation as much as possible, but it is a factor that I think is going to require a lot of discussion and work between retail and manufacturing as we start to move through the next 12 months.” RCC’s Brisebois agreed that costs were going to be a challenge for retailers, too. Not only having to pass on cost increases to financially constrained, value-conscious consumers but to also contend with rising operating costs such as transportation and managing things like sustainability programs. “Grocery retailers will be under the microscope in regards to their environmental practices,” said Brisebois, and the cost associated with maintaining some of those—particularly regulated producer responsibility programs—will increase substantially, putting pressure on the bottom line. One of the big stories to emerge from the pandemic is the acceleration of e-commerce. NielsenIQ Homescan data for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 26, 2020 showed that online shopping increased 98% versus the year prior, with online leading retail growth, fuelled by more shoppers (+17%), more visits (+66%) and more spending (+70%). Despite the remarkable numbers, e-commerce has certainly not been without its challenges, particularly for independent grocers, some of which had to act quickly to add or expand services like curbside pickup and delivery and invest in the required technology to support the effort. “Independents don’t have the deep pockets of some of the other competitors in the marketplace,” said Shurrie, adding they’ve got to find that extra money and grow that side of the business. Of course, there are also opportunities to be seized.

“I think we’re in for some inflationary pricing over the next little while because of these factors. We need to try to moderate inflation as much as possible, but it is a factor that I think is going to require a lot of discussion and work between retail and manufacturing as we start to move through the next 12 months”

CFIG’s Shurrie points to a shifting population. With birth rates and immigration levels in Canada flat, “we’re not really seeing any growth of people, but you’re seeing a movement of people” from urban to suburban or rural areas. “That shifting dynamic is important not just for the retailers to understand, but also for the manufacturers to understand,” he said, noting that stores that once had a small footprint might need to expand as the communities around them grow. It’s an area where all can come together with insights and data and build a strategy, he said. Brisebois sees diversity, equity and inclusion as an opportunity for the sector. It’s certainly an area that many companies in the industry say they are working to improve. “It behooves us to not only know how to serve our customers, but to reflect our customers within our workforce and to allow every Canadian an opportunity, regardless of where they’re from, to grow in our business.” From a manufacturing perspective, Graydon said he’s excited about e-commerce and the innovation happening in that space. As an example, he points to Sobeys’ Voilà e-comm platform, which he describes as “world class.” As other grocery retailers seek to win in this area, they’ll be entrepreneurial and innovative, and he expects e-comm will continue to grow as more consumers come to enjoy the flexibility and convenience of having goods delivered to their homes. “And what it does for a lot of our smaller members is it gives them access to consumers, too,” he said, explaining that it may be easier for these companies to get listings on a virtual store. Meanwhile, the bigger players are looking at direct-to-consumer (DTC) models. “Do I think that [DTC] will get a ton of momentum? Likely not. I think there’s still some real value in consolidation, that’s why Amazon is so successful.” And while all three leaders do not see eye to eye when it comes to establishing a code of conduct—or fair trading practices—for the industry, they all agree that it’s important to find ways to work together and fix strained relationships. “We have a responsibility to come together and figure out a way to develop best practices and guiding principles,” said RCC’s Brisebois, admitting the industry has not always been successful in this effort. Shurrie echoed that they must seize this opportunity to create a better future for the industry. “It’s critically important,” Graydon said, for retailers and manufacturers to find solutions to enhance the stability of the industry. “We have to have strong manufacturing if we’re going to have strong retail, and we have to have strong retail to have strong manufacturing—we’re so interdependent. We could be significant change agents and leave behind a legacy of stability for this industry,” he said, “which to me would be absolutely delightful.” CG

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 33

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Product of the Year Canada

WHERE ARE GROCERS IN THE WAR ON FOOD WASTE? While they’re not the biggest contributor to food waste, grocery retailers  can do more to tackle this mounting issue By Rebecca Harris Illustration by Clare Owen Nothing sums up the food waste crisis like this popular meme making the rounds: “Almost left the grocery store without buying a bag of spring mix to throw, unopened, into the garbage in two weeks.” It’s funny because it’s relatable—we’re all guilty of tossing food into our shopping carts, only to find it perishing in the crisper weeks later. However, the statistics on food waste show the issue is no laughing matter. New research from the United Nations Environ­ ment Programme (UNEP) suggests 17% of total global food production may end up being wasted. UNEP’s “Food Waste Index Report 2021” estimates food waste from households, retailers and foodservice totals 931 million tons each year. The biggest culprits are consumers: nearly 61% of food waste occurs at the household level, while 26% comes 36  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

Generation Next thinking from foodservice and 13% comes from retail. Research from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) shows where food is wasted in North America from farm to fork. Of the 168 million tons of food lost or wasted every year, pre-harvest accounts for 49 million tons, post-harvest adds up to 16 million tons, and processing accounts for 20 million tons. Distribution, retail and foodservice add 15 million tons, and finally, consumers pile on 67 million tons a year. All that waste takes a huge toll on the environment—and it’s not just about the methane emissions from rotting produce in landfills. “Along with this food that is being wasted, we are also wasting all the resources that went to producing this food,” said Armando Yáñez, head of the Green Growth unit at CEC, in a recent webinar on food loss and waste. That includes wasted water (enough to fill seven million Olympic-sized swimming pools), wasted energy (enough to power 274 million homes), and 193 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions that occur along the supply chain, from food production to waste disposal. Then there’s the price tag. Research from Value Chain Management International (VCMI), in partnership with Second Harvest, estimates that the value of avoidable food loss and waste in Canada equates to $49.5 billion per year. (Avoidable food loss and waste includes things like bruised apples that don’t get sold, as opposed to unavoidable food loss and waste, meaning byproducts such as peelings and animal bones.) Global estimates peg the cost at between US$940 billion and US$1.2 trillion. While food waste is a big problem, it’s not a new one. However, the food industry’s progress in tackling the issue is difficult to gauge. “There has been some progress, but the progress may not have been as great as some published figures suggest,” says Martin Gooch, CEO of VCMI. “The reason is a decent number of businesses have changed how they report food loss and waste—it’s not necessarily that the amount of waste has gone down significantly.” One example is the Food Loss and Waste protocol, a global accounting and reporting standard that launched in 2016. Led by the World Resources Institute, the FLW Standard (as it is known) enables companies, countries, cities and others to quantify and report on food loss and waste so they can create targeted reduction strategies. The FLW Standard highlights 10 final destinations for food loss and waste such as animal feed, anaerobic digestion, composting and landfill. However, not all destinations are considered to be food loss and waste, since some extract value from the material after it leaves the food supply chain. That’s a concern for Denise Philippe, a senior policy advisor at National Zero Waste Council of Metro Vancouver. “Part of the problem with the protocol

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 37

Generation Next thinking

1 Build more collaborative relationships

A lack of communication and collaboration, both within a retail business and with suppliers, is one of the root causes of food waste, according to VCMI. In its “Avoidable Food Waste: Technical Report,” VCMI explains there is sometimes an unwillingness in the grocery industry to share data, plan and execute collaboratively that, in turn, leads to food waste. Gooch gives the example of retailers that operate in silos. “Let’s say the logistics side of the business is being incentivized to minimize transport costs,” he says. “They will make sure that trucks are full, even though a portion of the products on those trucks aren’t required.” On the supplier side, Gooch believes a grocery code of conduct will help reduce food waste as it will lead to better relationships between retailers and manufacturers. “[A code of conduct] makes people accountable. Accountability enables you to build increased trust and grow margins because there is an incentive to share information,” says Gooch. Better relationships can also lead to more effective procurement strategies, which is another avenue to reduce food waste. “Too often, companies are tied to their procurement strategies and they become an albatross,” says Philippe. She advises retailers to set up procurement strategies with processors, manufacturers and even farmers that allow for a greater level of nimbleness. “It takes work, and there are all kinds of challenges around it, but it’s worthwhile,” she says.

2 Encourage suppliers to fight food waste

Grocers can also encourage suppliers to reduce food loss and waste in their own operations. “As buyers, there is an incredible opportunity for retailers to influence that supply chain,” says Cher Mereweather, president and CEO of Provision Coalition, which 38  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

“It’s not about creating more administrative burden with scorecards and questionnaires, but asking their vendors questions. Are you reducing food waste? Are you monitoring, measuring it and tracking it? And if you’re not, are you open to doing training to help you get a handle on it?”

works with food and beverage manufacturers to integrate sustainability into their business models. By influence, Mereweather means retailers can communicate that loss and waste is important to them and that they want to buy from suppliers that have a handle on the issue. “It’s not about creating more administrative burden with scorecards and questionnaires, but asking their vendors questions,” says Mereweather. “Are you reducing your food waste? Are you monitoring, measuring it and tracking it? And if you’re not, are you open to doing training to help you get a handle on it?” Sobeys is one major retailer that supports its suppliers with their food waste reduction efforts. In April, Provision Coalition hosted a virtual pitch competition with 14 Ontario-based suppliers that took part in Sobeys’ R-Purpose MICRO, a 12-week intensive program to help food and beverage startups “accelerate their growth by becoming more purpose-driven, sustainable and circular.” Mereweather says 100% of the companies in the first graduating cohort are reducing food waste because they implemented plans created during the program. One example is Abokichi, which makes Japanese-inspired miso condiments. In 2020, Abokichi expanded its product line with an instant miso soup product that’s “upcycled,” meaning made with ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. The miso soup contains a sake-brewing byproduct called sakekasu, resulting in the diversion of 2.3 tons of food waste in 2020. National Zero Waste Council’s Philippe says there’s a big opportunity for retailers to work with their partners on innovative and creative ways of rethinking the supply chain. Given the challenges of global supply chains, she says re-localizing Canada’s food supply will become increasingly important. “Part of that is rethinking and redefining what are edible food items,” she says. “For example, if we grow potatoes here, let’s not waste the potato skins. All kinds of cool, funky things can be done with them.”

3 Go high-tech

Technology can be a powerful ally in the fight against food waste. For example, Toronto-based Flashfood is a mobile platform that works with grocers to divert food nearing its best-before date from landfill by offering it at reduced prices. The app allows users to buy a variety of food including meat, produce, bakery items, dairy products and non-perishable food items. In the app, users can select a store, browse items and pay for their order through the app. Items are then ready for in-store pickup in a designated Flashfood zone. The company, founded in 2016, now operates in more than 450 grocery locations throughout Canada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. To date, Flashfood has diverted more than five million pounds of food.


is that you could send your food waste to an anaerobic digester or a composter and that would not be considered waste,” she says. “From the Council’s perspective, if it’s food that is not going to feed people or feed animals, it’s waste.” Like Gooch, though, Philippe believes some progress is being made, particularly around awareness. “The progress has been that people realize [food loss and waste] is an issue, and that we are suffering economic losses as a result of a system that is inefficient in terms of getting food from farm to fork,” she says. With that acknowledgement, she adds, organizations along the food chain are making efforts to tackle food loss and waste. While retailers are relatively small contributors to food waste, they have a critical role to play in helping to reduce it—in their own operations, in their suppliers’ operations, and in consumers’ homes. Here’s a look at some of the ways grocers can step up efforts to reduce food waste:


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Generation Next thinking Ahold Delhaize is one grocery company using Flashfood; it highlighted its food waste reduction efforts at the recent CEC webinar. The company introduced Flashfood in 2020 at select Giant and Martin’s locations in the United States and later expanded the partnership. “In our 12-week pilot alone, well over 11,000 shoppers took advantage of great deals on Flashfood and we successfully diverted thousands of pounds of food from landfill,” said Christine Gallagher, manager of environmental sustainability at Ahold Delhaize. Going high-tech to curb food waste doesn’t just mean all things mobile. Ahold Delhaize is piloting a technology called Apeel from California-based Apeel Sciences. It uses materials that exist in the seeds and pulp of fruits and vegetables to create a protective coating that seals moisture in and keeps oxygen out. According to Apeel, produce stays fresh longer since water loss and oxidation causes spoilage.

4 Donate and repurpose edible food

While retailers can make valiant efforts to reduce food waste, it’s nearly impossible to totally eliminate it. “There is always going to be a certain amount of waste,” says VCMI’s Gooch. That’s where donating safe, edible food comes in. “And if you can’t donate it, how do you valorize it, or get some value from it.” That’s another approach Empire/Sobeys is taking, as part of its goal to prevent and reduce its food waste by 50% by 2025. The grocer recently launched a national partnership with Second Harvest to adopt “Even though its platform, which allows retailers to retailers donate any type of surplus food directly to approved waste the least charities and non-profit organizations at any time. amount of Retailers outline what items they have available and food by entity the donation is matched to appropriate local organi- type, they zations, which then receive notifications. have the most “We are bringing the Second Harvest Food Rescue responsibility app to all our stores across our various banners over because they the next 16 to 18 months,” says Eli Browne, director have the of corporate sustainability at Sobeys. “Through this greatest access partnership, we’ll be able to divert up to 31 million to consumers. pounds of food from going to composting or landfill- And consumers ing, and instead [it will be] feeding people.” are the most On the repurposing front, Sobeys is working with important Outcast Foods to minimize food waste by upcycling entity in the unused fruits and vegetables from a Sobeys distri- equation” bution centre in Nova Scotia and select stores in the province. Outcast uses a process to dry fruits and vegetables destined for landfills, giving them an extra three years of shelf life. The ingredients are then used in Outcast’s Plant Strong Protein products, which are sold at Sobeys and other retailers. Turner Wyatt, co-founder and CEO of Denver-­ based Upcycled Food Association, notes that a recent study published in the journal Food and Nutrition Sciences found that just 10% of consumers are familiar with upcycled food products. However, 40  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

once educated about upcycled foods, 80% said they would seek out those products. “Our No. 1 goal is to educate as many millions of people as we can around the world about upcycled food,” he says. “If more people know what it is, demand will grow naturally.” And, he adds, the place where consumers are primed to find out about new concepts is the grocery store. “Even though retailers waste the least amount of food by entity type, they have the most responsibility because they have the greatest access to consumers. And consumers are the most important entity in the equation.”

5 Help consumers reduce household food waste

To understand how grocers can help consumers reduce food waste at home, they first have to understand the root causes. Joanne Gauci, a senior policy advisor at National Zero Waste Council of Metro Vancouver, says there are three key areas: consumers are not planning well and buying too much food; they’re not storing it correctly; and they don’t know what to do with leftovers. Research from the National Zero Waste Council found that 63% of the food Canadians throw away or compost could have been eaten. For the average household, that costs $1,100 per year. The most commonly wasted foods are vegetables, fruits and leftovers. The good news is that 94% of Canadians are motivated to reduce their household’s avoidable food waste, according to a 2020 survey by the Council. To help Canadians reduce food waste, the National Zero Waste Council’s ongoing “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign provides tips on food storage, meal planning and smarter shopping habits, as well as recipes. This month, the Council is launching its “5 Ways With” campaign that gives consumers tips on what to do with the most commonly wasted food products. For example, the campaign will highlight “5 ways with broccoli stalks” and “5 ways with stale bread.” “It’s intended to be a source of inspiration for consumers and the campaign will feature influencers who also share their tips and insights,” says Gauci. The Council has 11 campaign partners, including two grocery partners: Sobeys and Walmart. Provision Coalition’s Mereweather agrees the industry has an important role to play in supporting national campaigns like those from National Zero Waste Council. “If retailers and food companies start communicating the importance of food waste prevention at home, then we have consistent messaging.” Certainly, for everyone along the chain—from manufacturers to retailers to consumers—the message to take food waste seriously should be loud and clear.  CG Generation Next Thinking is an ongoing series that explores cutting-edge topics that will help grocers gain the knowledge they need to tackle the future of this rapidly-changing industry.




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Retailer spotlight


As it sets its sights on the future, Giant Tiger is focused on growth, innovation and listening closely to customers By Carol Neshevich

GIANT TIGER HAS COME a long way since its first “roar” 60 years ago. The Ottawa-­b ased discount retailer has been steadily growing and evolving since opening its first store in Ottawa in 1961—but the past few years, in particular, have seen exceptionally strong growth. “We’ve been thankful to have the opportunity to grow at a greater pace over the last several years,” says Paul Wood, the chain’s president and CEO. Since 2013, Giant Tiger has expanded its network from around 200 stores to more than 260 locations across Canada today. Wood took on the president and CEO role in September 2020—taking over from retiring CEO and founder, Gordon Reid—hot on the heels of becoming president and COO one year earlier. But Wood has spent the bulk of his career at Giant Tiger, working his way up from his first role with the company as senior accounting manager in 2003 (the connection goes back even further: prior to 2003, Wood was working for an accounting firm where Giant Tiger was a client). Wood feels his longevity with the discount retailer—which sells a wide array of goods including clothing, cleaning supplies, grocery, confectionery, pet food, housewares, toys and health and beauty 42  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

products—has definitely helped his performance as CEO. “Ultimately, it’s really a connection to the values of the company that we can now rely on as we transition and transform some of the ways we operate as the world has shifted around us,” he says. The grocery department is one area undergoing some transformations, including a new focus on fresh: Giant Tiger debuted its fresh meat offering just a couple of years ago, and has significantly expanded its fresh produce selection recently. “On the grocery side, really, what we’ve focused on over the last few years has been rounding out our assortment of grocery, [being very] customer focused,” says Wood. “We know our size dictates that we can’t be all things to everyone; we can’t carry the full assortment of a full grocer. But we can carry a complete assortment for our customers’ everyday needs, so you should be able to get some of everything you want.” Beyond an increased focus on fresh meat and produce, Giant Tiger continually tests out new grocery items to reflect consumer trends, including “organics, plant-based, the ready-to-heat meals and those kinds of elements—as they grow in popularity and demand, our assortment has to adjust and keep

pace,” says Wood. “Our merchants are constantly working on that with input from our customers, and we pride ourselves on offering a great selection of national brands within our assortment that you would find anywhere.” That said, selection does have to be carefully curated to reflect space limitations; as Wood notes, grocery is a key component of the business, but it’s not the only component. “So instead of having three or four national brands, we might have one on the shelf. And instead of having 10 flavours of something, we might have three or four,” explains Wood. “But there is a strong focus on the customer helping to drive what that selection ends up being.” The grocery department has also meant Giant Tiger is an essential retailer, so it’s stayed open during every phase of the pandemic. “The role of being essential is something we don’t take for granted,” says Wood. “The importance of groceries, the trend of everybody being at home more and eating at home more than before, bore out in how grocery was playing a significant role for us during that time frame; and being in-stock for our customers and serving our communities in that way is a real focus for us as we go ahead.” And since many Canadians have been experiencing budget constraints during the pandemic, the discount sector, in general, has also had a boost from value-seeking consumers attracted to the “everyday low prices’’ of a chain like Giant Tiger. But it’s no secret that even prior to the pandemic, discount


The new flagship store in Ottawa was specifically designed with the customer experience in mind

was one of the faster-growing retail sectors in recent years. “The expansion in discount really has created more competition for us; [it] forces us to be even sharper than we would’ve been before—but it’s also just an example of where some of the innovations have been in retail,” says Wood. “I think we’ve seen, as retail has developed here in Canada in the last

little while, there’s been a lack of innovation in the ‘middle of the road,’ if you will, while discount and the upper and specialty tiers have been growing.” Wood says Giant Tiger is rising to the challenge of heightened competition. “For us, it just emphasizes our need to continue to expand and integrate our offering into a digital world, and to incorporate some innovation into our stores and into the customer experience to ensure that they’re getting an easy, affordable, and simple but memorable experience.” While the CEO admits Giant Tiger hasn’t historically been known for being on the cutting edge of innovation, the retailer has been upping its game in that area. The company opened a new high-tech, state-of-the-art distribution centre in Johnstown, Ont. in 2018. The 600,000-sq.-ft. facility features autonomous robots that can move up, down and across racks of inventory at speeds up to 40 km/hour. “We’ve got a significant amount of robotics there to support our distribution efforts to our stores to keep things moving as efficiently as possible, and to keep the stores—which have limited stockroom capacity—as in-stock as possible, with as frequent and complete deliveries as we can,” explains Wood. And just this spring, the company opened a new flagship store on Walkley Road in Ottawa that was specifically designed with customer experience in mind. Features of this new prototype include “enticing” exterior window treatments that allow customers to get a better glimpse of the kinds of deals they can expect inside; new in-store wayfinding signage to make shopping easier; improved lighting features; a new branded online order pickup area to ease the pickup process; and improved customer messaging about both in-store and online offerings. This new flagship store will also serve as a “test environment” for any new customer-focused initiatives before they’re rolled out nationwide. As Giant Tiger prepares to mark its 60th anniversary this year, Wood says he is proud of where the brand has been and where it’s headed. “We’re really excited about passing that milestone, and we wouldn’t be there if we weren’t continuing to listen and respond to our customers and provide them with great experiences and great products at outstanding value every day,” he says. “We don’t take our role in our customers’ lives for granted. We like to stay engaged with them and with our communities, and we’re looking forward to lots of continued opportunities to do so for many years to come.” CG

“The expansion in discount really has created more competition for us; [it] forces us to be even sharper than we would’ve been before— but it’s also just an example of where some of the innovations have been in retail”

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 43

TOP ICE CREAM FLAVOURS REINVENTED IN A SINGLE BAR FORMAT FOR THE SUMMER SEASON. #1 CONFECTIONERY SUMMER INNOVATION IN 2020!* *source: nielsen markettrack, national excl nfld gdm + rfc + CG, l52w jan 9, 2021

Grand Prix Finalists

SHELF STARS Introducing the finalists of the 28th Canadian  Grand Prix New Product Awards While 2020 was a year like no other, it also served up an impressive number of innovative food and consumer packaged goods, of which 124 are finalists in the 28th Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards. “Canadians spent more time at home in 2020 than ever in recent memory,” said Diane J. Brisebois, president and CEO of The Retail Council of Canada, which

presents the annual awards. “Canadians are craving products to prepare at home that satisfy their needs for flavour adventures.” A jury of 33 food and grocery industry experts determined this year’s finalists based on innovation and originality, product characteristics, presentation and packaging, and overall consumer value. Here’s a look at this year’s finalists:

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 45

Grand Prix Finalists ACH Food Companies | Fleischmann’s

Bread Booster Fleischmann’s Bread Booster dough enhancer complements any yeast-based recipe. The result is faster and higher rises, as well as tastier, fluffier breads that stay fresh longer.

MORE FOOD FINALISTS AB WORLD FOODS •  Patak’s Veggie Curries BEL CHEESE CANADA •  Boursin Fig & Balsamic BIMBO CANADA •  Stonemill Honest Wellness Plant-Based Protein Bread BONDUELLE CANADA •  Arctic Gardens’ Pesticide Residue Tested Frozen Vegetables •  Bonduelle Mini Cans

Beyond Meat | Beyond Sausage Mild Italian The plant-based links are designed to look, cook and satisfy like pork sausage but are made from simple, plant-based ingredients without GMOs, soy or gluten. Its makers say these sausages deliver the meaty experience consumers crave, without the compromise.

BONTE FOODS LIMITED •  Donair Dippers DR. OETKER CANADA •  Dr. Oetker Momenti •  Dr. Oetker Pizzaiolo Kit EVERREAL •  Real Sips

FOOD FINALISTS Biscuits Leclerc | Go Pure Fruit & Oat Bars Made with real fruit and oats, these bars are a source of fibre, contain 8 grams of whole grain per bar and are free of artificial flavours and colours.

FROBISHER INTERNATIONAL ENTERPRISE LTD. •  Ocean Mama Japanese Style Noodles FROMAGERIE L’ANCÊTRE •  L’Ancêtre Organic Cheese & Beer Fondue GAY LEA FOODS CO-OPERATIVE •  Gay Lea Garlic Parsley Butter FRUIT D’OR •  Patience Fruit & Co Organic Dried Cranberries, no added sugar HAIN-CELESTIAL CANADA •  Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws Screamin’ Hot

Grand Prix winners will be revealed in June 46  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

Bimbo Canada | Oroweat Organic 22 Grains & Seeds Bread Each loaf of this bread is organic, made with non-GMO ingredients and contains no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. The bread is also sustainably baked, and Bimbo Canada says 100% of the electricity used in baking Oroweat bread is with electricity produced from renewable sources.

Grand Prix Finalists MORE FOOD FINALISTS continued KRAFT HEINZ CANADA •  Kraft Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa •  Kraft Peanut Butter Extra Roasted •  Maxwell House Compostable Coffee Pods •  CRAVE Melts •  Heinz by Nature OGGI FOODS •  Dolce Vita SAPUTO DAIRY PRODUCTS CANADA •  Armstrong Cheese Slices •  Armstrong Mexican Fiesta Marble Jalapeño Cheddar Cheese Block •  Cathedral City Mature Cheddar •  Saputo Feta Shredded Cheese

Cavendish Farms |  Cavendish Farms All-Day Breakfast Hash Brown Waffles These super crispy breakfast hash browns have a traditional waffle shape and are made with signature golden hash browns. Part of Cavendish Farms’ new all-day breakfast lineup of products.


ST-HUBERT •  St-Hubert Meatless Pot Pies

48  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

Gay Lea Foods Co-Operative | Gay Lea Specialty Butters Gay Lea is serving up some special spreads. Its Farmhouse Butter is made with whey cream and churned to the European-standard of 82% milkfat; while Gay Lea Grass-Fed Unsalted Butter is made with milk from grass-fed cows, which yields butter with improved omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid profiles.

THEOBROMA CHOCOLAT •  Chunkies Energy Bites THREE FARMERS FOODS INC. •  Three Farmers Roasted Chickpeas UNILEVER CANADA •  Hellmann’s Salad Dressings •  Knorr Concentrated Bouillon UPFIELD CANADA •  Violife Vegan Cheese Alternative Slices •  Violife Vegan Cheese Alternative VICTORY’S KITCHEN •  SOUP’S ON Plant-Based Soups

Hardbite | Potato Chips Explorer Pack The Explorer Pack contains 32 units and four Hardbite flavours: Rock Salt & Vinegar, Wild Onion & Yogurt, Spicy Dill Pickle, and Ketchup. These Canadian-made chips are free from GMOs, trans fat, cholesterol and gluten.

Burnbrae Farms | EGGBites! Mini Crustless Quiche The folks at Burnbrae describe EGGBites as an “all-day breakfast snacking” solution. EGGBites! Mini Crustless Quiches are made with real eggs, contain no artificial flavours or colours, and are protein rich.

Hershey Canada Inc. | Hershey’s Ice Cream Flavoured Single Bars A range of candy bars inspired by popular ice cream flavours such as Birthday Cake and Strawberries ‘N’ Creme. Each bar serves up a slight cooling sensation, inspired by the experience of eating ice cream.

Grand Prix Finalists NON-FOOD FINALISTS

Maison Le Grand | Vegan Organic Butter Le Grand’s plant-based vegan spreadable butter is organic and cultured and made with only real food ingredients (no extracts for flavour or colour). This spread is also Non-GMO Project verified and contains no palm oil, no gums or fillers, and it’s nut free.


CARLTON CARDS •  Papyrus – Thank You Wreath •  Papyrus – Sequin Pineapple •  Papyrus – Hello Kitty Patch HAIN-CELESTIAL CANADA •  Live Clean Body Lotion

Kellogg Canada | Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers After nearly a century in the U.S. market, Cheez-It crackers arrived in Canada in 2020. The snack crackers deliver “deep flavour and deep crunch” with real cheese baked into every square.

NESTLÉ PURINA PRO PLAN | Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Introducing the first and only allergen-reducing cat food. Backed by more than a decade of research, LiveClear is shown to safely and effectively reduce allergens in cat hair and dander by an average of 47%, starting in the third week of daily feeding.

Lactalis Canada | Balderson Natural Cheese Slices Balderson has expanded its offering to include natural cheese slices that are available in oneyear-old aged cheddar, double smoked cheddar and Monterey Jack with hot peppers. There are six slices per pack and the packaging is resealable for optimal freshness. NUTRAMELTZ INC. •  Nutrameltz Orally Dissolving Supplements

Kraft Heinz Canada | Heinz Mayoracha Sauce An extension of the “Mashups” line that started with Heinz Mayochup in 2019, Mayoracha is a combination of two popular condiments: mayonnaise and sriracha. 50  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

REYNOLDS CONSUMER PRODUCTS CANADA •  Alcan Made with 100% Recycled Aluminum Bakeware •  Hefty ECOSAVE 100% Compostable & Recyclable Tableware •  Reynolds Kitchens Unbleached Compostable Parchment Paper UNILEVER CANADA •  Schmidt’s Aluminum Free Natural Deodorant for Women and Men, Lavender + Sage


Grand Prix - CDN Grocer - 1/2 PAGE.indd 1




2021-04-26 2:39 PM

Grand Prix Finalists Nabati Foods | Plant-based Chick’n Burger This unbreaded plant-based burger is crafted using pea protein and pea fibre to re-create a tender chicken-meat texture. It’s also soy-free, certified gluten-free and is packed with 21 grams of protein and 4 grams of fibre.

PRIVATE LABEL – ­ FOOD CALGARY CO-OP •  Cal & Gary’s Free From Trail Mix •  Cal & Gary’s Grass Fed Beef Meatballs •  Cal & Gary’s Meatless Burgers •  Cal & Gary’s Organic Fair Trade Coffee FEDERATED CO-OPERATIVES LIMITED •  Co-op Gold Croissant Loaf •  Co-op Gold PURE Cheese •  Co-op Gold PURE Loose-Leaf Tea •  Co-op Gold PURE Pasta LONGO BROTHERS FRUIT MARKETS •  Longo’s Antipasto Party Tray •  Longo’s Chickpea Veggie Burgers •  Longo’s Pistachio Ice Cream

52  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

METRO INC. •  Discovered by Irresistibles charcuterie products •  Irresistibles Bang Bang Shrimps •  Irresistibles Frozen Bowls •  Irresistibles Peach & Vanilla Ice Cream with Ontario Peach Pieces •  Irresistibles Nordic Mix •  Irresistibles Mini Tuxedo with a Cherry Twist •  Irresistibles Old-fashioned Chips •  Life Smart Naturalia Grapefruit & Pink Pepper Dressing •  Life Smart Organic Kombucha •  Life Smart Plant-Based Caesar Dressing •  Première Moisson Organic Sprouted Grain Baguette •  Selection Premium Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Peanut Butter Cups •  Selection Premium Fruit Jelly Box

FOOD FINALISTS Neal Brothers | Neal Bros. Lager 0.45% Non-Alcoholic Beer From snack makers Neal Brothers comes this 0.45% non-alcoholic beer. The boozefree beverage is de-alcoholised using a cutting-edge technology allowing for a great beer taste with minimal ABV.

REXALL •  Be Better Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries •  Nosh & Co. Mango Bites SAVE-ON-FOODS •  Western Family Black Bean Chipotle Veggie Burger •  Western Family Peanut Butter with Chia •  Western Family Salt & Black Pepper Cauliflower Bites •  Western Family Ultimate Cheesecake Collection SOBEYS INC. •  Compliments Fruit-Flavoured Drink with Coconut Water •  Compliments Mini Cornbread •  Compliments Naturally Simple Pork Sausages •  Compliments Naturally Simple Pacific White Shrimp, Cooked •  Compliments Organic 100% Compostable Coffee Pods

•  Compliments Plant-Based Almond Dip •  Eight Treasures Shrimp Head-on, Shell-on, Raw •  Panache Pepper Jelly Topper & Spread •  Panache Dressing •  Panache Granola •  Panache Soda •  Sensations by Compliments Spicy Mexican Street-Style Corn Soup WALMART CANADA •  Delicious Kitchen Original Coconut Milk Beverage •  Our Finest Polynesian-Style Pineapple BBQ Sauce •  Our Finest Pumpkin Cream Bar Cake •  Great Value All Dressed Scorchin’ Hot Crunchies •  Great Value Breakfast Bowl •  Great Value Brown Sugar BBQ Dry Rub Chicken Wings •  Great Value Ready-to-Go Beans

All-day Breakfast Snacking has never been easier – with NEW EGGBites! The Conveniently Delicious, Bite-sized Snack!

’RE D HONOURED to be chosen as a Grand Prix Finalist!


! y a d o s t t r e o in rep l n o / y m p o o c . c r 1 e c 2 o 0 r 2 g r n u a o y nadi r e Ca Ord


Annual directory of chains and groups in Canada


Grand Prix Finalists Oggi Foods | Baci Bites “Baci” means kiss in Italian and these bite-sized pizza appetizers feature a cauliflower crust with Beyond Sausage Italian crumbles. These bites are vegan, gluten free and are made with non-GMO ingredients.


PRANA Biovegan | CHIC CHOC Crunchy Bites Thanks to a unique combination of crunchy seeds and nuts, crispy rice and puffed quinoa, these snacks are bursting with flavour and texture. Available in three varieties: Double Chocolate, Chocolate Caramel and Vanilla Almond.

CANADIAN TIRE CORP. •  Paderno Highland Fully Forged 14-Piece Knife Block Set FEDERATED CO-OPERATIVES LIMITED •  Co-op Gold PURE Concentrated Pods METRO INC. •  Personnelle Baby Wipes •  Personnelle Bamboo Charcoal Toothbrushes •  Personnelle Cleansing Wipes for Beard and Moustache •  Personnelle Eco Ultrathin Organic Pads with Wings •  Selection Eco Compostable Tablewear Party Pack REXALL •  Be Better Dry Brush •  Be Better Vegan Protein Powder •  Rexall Baby Wipes WALMART •  Equate Personal Wipes •  Great Value Eco Compostable Wooden Cutlery •  Special Kitty Flushable Clumping Cat Litter

54  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

The J.M. Smucker Co. | Robin Hood Organic All Purpose Flour Made in Canada with flour milled from premium certified organic (100% Canadian) wheat and farmed without the use of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or bleaching agents. The flour is pre-sifted and easy to use as a cup-to-cup replacement in any recipe that calls for allpurpose flour.

Saputo Dairy Products Canada | Saputo Halloumi Style Grilling Burger A true “cheese” burger, Saputo’s halloumi-style burger makes an ideal patty as this cheese does not melt. Authentic from Cyprus, the package includes conveniently sliced patties that can be simply grilled on the barbecue or in a pan.

FOOD FINALISTS Upfield Canada | Becel Plant-based Bricks Becel Plant-based Bricks are crafted to taste, cook and bake just like dairy-based butter. Made from plantbased oils, they contain 25% less saturated fat than regular butter.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2020 CANADIAN INDEPENDENT GROCERS OF THE YEAR SMALL SURFACE CATEGORY GOLD Vince's Market, Tottenham, Ontario SILVER Belbin's Grocery, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador BRONZE Pepper's Foods, Victoria, British Columbia

MEDIUM SURFACE CATEGORY GOLD Battistelli's Your Independent Grocer, Lively, Ontario SILVER Country Grocer (Royal Oak), Victoria, British Columbia BRONZE Powell's Supermarket, Bay Roberts, Newfoundland and Labrador

LARE SURFACE CATEGORY GOLD Longo's - Mount Pleasant, Brampton, Ontario SILVER Colemans Gardens Market, Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador BRONZE Country Grocer - Bowen Rd., Nanaimo, British Columbia

DAVID C. PARSONS AWARD OF EXCELLENCE IN SPECIALTY FOOD RETAILING GOLD Yummy Market – Maple, Ontario SILVER BJ'S Country Market, Delaware, Ontario BRONZE Galleria Supermarket, Oakville, Ontario



FOOD SAFETY Canadian hog producers are recognized in Canada and around the world for producing premium-quality pork. Canada’s on-farm food safety and quality assurance systems promote and ensure best on-farm management practices to provide confidence that Canadian farmers are producing safe, wholesome pork.

RESPONSIBLE ANIMAL CARE Canada’s animal care and handling assurance system is based on the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice (NFACC) for pigs. The codes promote sound management and welfare practices for housing, care, transportation and other animal husbandry practices.

TRACEABILITY Canada is the only country in North America to implement a national swine identification and traceability system with mandatory participation by all producers, ensuring the highest level of herd health and safety.

Pork packs a nutrition punch. The nutrients in pork include high-quality protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins. These play a powerful role in nourishing Canadians—from fuelling physical activity and helping to manage weight to developing cognitive skills and aging vibrantly.

The Verified Canadian Pork™ brand is built on a foundation of on-farm food safety, responsible animal care and mandatory traceability. It’s raised without the use of growth hormones (like all pork produced in Canada) and is processed at participating federally approved HACCP plants across Canada.

NO ADDED GROWTH HORMONES Like all Canadian pork, Verified Canadian Pork™ is raised without added growth hormones.




Verified Canadian Pork™ processors are CFIA federally registered, HACCP-approved plants maintaining the highest standards for freshness, quality and safety.

Verified Canadian Pork™ provides a credible national brand mark that can be leveraged as a resource by retail operators to increase consumer confidence and awareness of the quality, wholesomeness and safety of Canadian pork products.

For more information about programs and services, and to learn how to add Verified Canadian Pork™ to your fresh meat case or value-added products / 519.761.7675



JUST HEAT, SAUCE & SERvE! With three succulent glazes to choose from, our NEW pork loins make a quick and delicious dinner.







PUTTING MEAT ON THE TABLE Canadians are adding more meat to their shopping carts these days, with a focus on affordability, sustainability and variety By Jessica Huras

Despite the steady flow of meat alternatives hitting the market, the average consumer isn’t giving up on animal proteins. In fact, NielsenIQ reports that the overall meat category in Canada has experienced a 12% increase in sales over the past year. The market research firm mainly attributes the growth in sales of beef, chicken and pork to the corresponding surge in home cooking amid the pandemic. While 82% of Canadians list meat as their primary source of protein, according to NielsenIQ, consumers are also looking for heathier, more ethical and affordable meat options as well as new ways to prepare it at home. With many Canadians facing financial challenges as a result of COVID, consumers are seeking more bang-for-their-buck when buying meat. “People are looking for value at the moment,” says Trevor Nichols, brand manager at Maple Lodge Farms, adding the company has seen “a huge increase”

May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 59

Aisles in sales of its lower-priced products. that often gets overlooked, according to At the same time, widespread restau- Salima Jivraj, account director at Nourrant closures have motivated consumers ish Food Marketing. “It’s not something to experiment with cooking different types that’s really marked year-over-year. It’s a of cuts at home. Beretta Farms founder long-term growth trend, but it’s definitely Cynthia Beretta says the brand has noticed on the rise,” she says. “With the rise of increased sales of its whole cuts, partic- immigration, especially from the Middle ularly in its beef category, which hit a East and other countries that have a lot of sweet spot of offering good value while Muslims, there’s more demand.” lending itself well to more adventurous Chicken legs and ground beef are the eating. “To buy the whole piece is far best-selling meats in the halal category, more economical than to buy individual but Jivraj says brands like One World steaks,” explains Beretta. “There’s been Halal are beginning to tap into the flasuch a high demand because people are vour profiles that are trending across into trying new things.” Similarly, Maple other meat categories. “They [One World Lodge’s Nichols says while boneless, skin- Halal] introduced a line of gourmet burgless chicken breast remains the company’s ers in flavours that you wouldn’t typically top-selling cut, the brand has also seen find in the halal category currently,” she more consumer interest in whole birds. says. “They’re filling that gap of first- or In addition to experimenting with dif- second-generation millennial Muslims ferent cuts, consumers are also seeking who want restaurant quality, but it’s halal new ways to prepare meat at home. Lisa and they can make it at home.” Bishop-­S pencer, director of brand and While interest in recreating restaucommunications for Chicken Farmers rant experiences at home is driving up of Canada, says she’s noticed a spike in meat sales, consumer consciousness traffic to the recipe section of their site. about the ethics and sustainability of “We’re starting to see requests meat consumption remains for different types of recipes “To buy the high. According to research now,” she says. “Before it was whole piece from NielsenIQ, 84% of Canajust ‘how long do I cook this is far more dian consumers are concerned thing?’ but now it’s ‘do you economical about animal welfare, while have a butter chicken recipe?’” than to buy 59% prefer all-natural prodBishop-Spencer says the individual ucts and 75% say buying local push for new flavour profiles steaks. is important to them. was already a growing trend, There’s been Andrew Flint, executive head but the pandemic has inspired such a high butcher for Toronto-­based food even more Canadians to start demand retailer Fresh City Farms, says expanding their culinary horibecause its customers increasingly want zons. “It’s delivering on the people are to know where and how its expectation for something into trying meat is sourced. “What people novel but still inexpensive.” new things” often look for is: is it verified Consumer desire for variety organic? How is it being raised? is also driving interest in new tools for Is it 100% grass-fed?” he says. “Even cooking meat. Beretta says they’ve been during the pandemic, people are continreceiving a growing volume of inquiries ually educating themselves and learning about smoking meat at home. “[Con- why certain farmers are [implementing] sumers are] buying Traegers [wood-fired practices to be more sustainable so we can grills] and smokers,” she says. “They’re have meat for a long time in the future.” spending the time and effort to cook their James Lelonde, meat category direcitems for three to five hours.” tor for Calgary Co-op, says its stores are In contrast to the surge in sales of eco- responding to this increased consumer nomical cuts, Maple Lodge’s Nichols consciousness by “doubling down” on observes an equal rise in the number of local. “That’s our biggest driver this year,” consumers with disposable income to he says. “Customers are looking to help spend on new equipment. “People are our producers and our small businesses investing in things like grills when they in Calgary.” He adds that RWA (raised can’t spend their money on travelling without antibiotics) is another priority for abroad or going to restaurants,” he says. Calgary Co-op that’s receiving a positive Halal meat is another growing trend response from customers. 60  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

A 2020 report from Mintel suggests that eating healthier is a key reason Canadians who are eating less or no meat at all are choosing to do so. Some meat manufacturers are aiming to address this consumer concern with better-foryou meat product launches. Nichols says Maple Lodge is poised to debut a new line of chicken dinner sausages this summer with health-conscious consumers in mind. “They taste just as great as pork but with considerably less fat,” says Nichols. “There are no preservatives or artificial flavours or sweeteners, and they’re prepared in Canada.” Whether it’s halal, better-for-you, or locally-raised, awareness of the meat qualities that matter to consumers is key for retailers. Nichols suggests in-store signage, as well as print flyers and online pages highlighting locally-raised meat options, can be helpful in driving sales. Bishop-Spencer says grocers can also capitalize on consumer demand for new cooking techniques by featuring online recipes with links to the required cuts. “Keep an eye on food trends and make recipes available on your website,” she says. What remains to be seen is whether the recent boost in meat sales will persist as the country moves into a post-COVID era. Nielsen’s research suggests 78% of Canadians plan to continue consuming the same amount of meat they eat now. At Calgary Co-op, Lelonde believes there’s room in the market for both plantbased alternatives and traditional meat to thrive. He says the chain’s stores have seen growing interest in plant-based proteins, but it’s being driven by flexitarians who also purchase meat. “They’ll incorporate it [plant-based proteins] into their diets every week or every two weeks,” Lelonde explains. Mintel’s research, too, indicates that true vegetarians and vegans comprise a smaller percentage of the population than flexitarians. It doesn’t appear that plant-based proteins will dethrone meat any time soon, with Mintel’s report predicting consumers will show continued interest in the meat cooking techniques they’ve picked up during the pandemic. “Consumers have had the time at home to experiment and fall in love with cuts they’ve never had before or that they would have been a little nervous about cooking,” says Lelonde. “I think that will continue even [when] restaurants open up more.”

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GROUND BEEF MATTERS! As Canada’s most popular minced meat, ground beef is a foundation for making the wholesome home-cooked meals that Canadians love. Here’s the definitive tool to help your staff learn how to Speak Meat with your customers when it comes to this meal-staple.

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INSIDE YOU’LL FIND... PRACTICAL TOOLS: • How to buy, store and cook • Nutrition facts tables for ground beef • Nutrient claims FACTS AND STATS: • Latest consumption stats • How Canadians shop for and cook ground beef • Ground beef terms explained: extra lean, lean, medium, regular HOT TOPICS: • Beef and sustainability • Saturated fat • How plant-based alternatives compare

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“It addresses many of today’s questions about ground beef - sustainability, plant-based eating and nutritional quality.”




To maintain pet food sales momentum, grocers must offer pet parents premium products and variety By Carolyn Cooper Pet food has been a fast-growing category for grocers in the past year, as COVID-conscious consumers relied on one-stop-shopping at grocery for their pet food needs rather than hitting their usual specialty pet retailers and club stores. To keep pet parents returning post-pandemic, grocers will need to invest in their pet food aisles and offer the wider variety of pet food and snack options shoppers are demanding. “ There’s a huge opportunity here that’s just not being tapped,” says Jo-Ann McArthur, president and chief strategist of Nourish Food Marketing. “Pet food sales [in grocery] have been growing with COVID, but grocers could be doing even more.” McArthur notes there’s been a shift in what pet owners feed their cats and dogs. “Only 13% of dog owners exclusively feed their dog kibble or canned pet food, and the number for cats is 32%,” she says, citing a 2020 University of Guelph study. “So, there are needs that obviously canned and dry food isn’t filling.” McArthur adds that the trends driving pet food are the same as those driving human food products—so consumers are looking for pet products made with higher-quality ingredients, no additives, and a small environmental “paw” print. Northern Biscuit Bakery has been producing all-natural dog biscuits made with 64  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021

high-quality, human-grade ingredients for almost 30 years. “The pet market has exploded,” says co-founder and president Patty Grillo. “Everybody’s getting a dog now, especially with the pandemic. And they’re really health conscious.” Grillo says the Concord, Ont.-based company tries “to mimic what the human food trends are,” to meet consumer demand for natural products, local production and environmentally-friendly packaging. “You’d be surprised how many people are looking for compostable packaging.” The company offers a wide variety of its dog biscuits under the Northern Biscuit brand, and recently launched a line specifically for grocery called Williwaw. Packaged in a fully compostable 340gram bag, the new brand is available in four varieties at a number of Sobeys locations across Ontario. To help merchandise Williwaw, Northern produced stackable displays that can be put in different areas of the store, with signage indicating that the products are locally made. Other trends in pet food focus on raw, protein, botanicals and digestibility, and McArthur says these items “tend to be either functional or indulgent, with an overall premiumization trend within treats as well.” Justin Schley, vice-president and CFO at B.C. grocery retailer Quality Foods, agrees, noting “pet food

is definitely growing—we’re selling more than we would in a non-pandemic environment. And people are asking for local and premium, so it’s something we’ll continue to explore.” Mark Venton, national sales manager for Big Country Raw, says “raw diets are a massive trend that’s just at the early stages of adoption, so planning for freezer space ASAP to be in front of this innovation is a huge opportunity for traditional grocery.” He adds that the majority of pet parents “expect to find new, innovative products in pet specialty stores, so traditional retail stores still have a lot work to do in this category. Grocery is selling the lowest-margin pet foods and missing the high-margin items pet specialty sells.” Big Country Raw has raw items for dogs and cats in various formats including frozen bone broth, cooked and dehydrated meals, and fresh raw protein blends. “Our best-selling products are our easyto-use, low-price items—our Grab and Go products,” says Venton. “The other huge growth is in raw bones and toppers like sardines, goat’s milk and eggs.” The increasingly blurred lines between human products and premium pet treats has even led to the launch of frozen treats like Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy Doggy Desserts, made with the same ingredients as their human non-dairy products. “The interesting thing is they’re shelving it in the same freezer section, so when people go to treat themselves they can also treat their pet,” says McArthur. That’s also why Cargill’s new butcher-­ quality dog treat brand, The Chompery, is available in the meat aisle at grocery. “Consumers are likely to grab pet treats as an impulse buy,” says Kelsie Reuter, marketing manager for Cargill Protein, meaning “grocers should consider ways to promote pet treats throughout the store.” The Chompery provides grocers with display racks that hold an assortment of 12 products such as Beef Rib Bones, Beef Lung Protein Bites, and Bully Sticks. As well as adding signage and trying product placement beyond the pet aisle, McArthur recommends grocers boost online sales with auto-subscription models, and consider a re-fresh of private-label pet products. “Pet parents have high degrees of loyalty in products,” she says. “So grocers really have to get ahead of this, because when the world starts opening up again the question will be, how will you solidify the gains you’ve made?”



New on shelf!

Aisles The latest products hitting shelves


1  RUBICON EXOTIC COCONUT WATER Ontario-based fruit juice maker Rubicon Exotic has launched an organic coconut water it says brings Canadians a “quintessential feeling of summer.” Rubicon Exotic Organic Coconut Water is certified organic and non-GMO verified. It’s high in fibre and vitamin C, and has more potassium than four bananas, with no added sugar. Rubicon Exotic Organic Coconut Water is available in 1-L and 330-mL formats.


2  QUEEN ST. BAKERY 1-FOR-1 SUPERFOOD BAKING FLOUR Queen St. Bakery has created a flour that it says makes it easy to transform traditional muffins, brownies and cookies into glutenfree treats. Not only that, the Scarborough, Ont.-based company says its 1-for-1 Superfood Baking Flour uses superfoods millet seed and sorghum, which it says creates a product that’s higher in fibre and iron than wheat flour. 3  CHAPMAN’S PISTACHIO AND ALMONDS ICE CREAM Joining Chapman’s Premium line of ice creams is Pistachio and Almonds, a combination of a creamy pistachio ice cream with crunchy almond pieces throughout, creating what the Canadian company is calling “a savoury-sweet nutty flavour profile.” Chapman’s Pistachio and Almonds is available in 2-L tubs. 4  FLORA PLANT-BASED BRICKS Upfield has introduced Flora Plant-Based Bricks in Canada. This vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free and non-GMO butter alternative is “a tasty way to eat plant-based while being a more environmentally responsible choice,” according to the Netherlands-based company. The bricks are made with sustainably-sourced plant oils and come wrapped in plastic-free, paper packaging. The spreads are available in Unsalted and Salted varieties. 5  BECEL WITH OAT BEVERAGE Riding the wave of the oat milk trend, Becel has launched a gluten-free margarine made from a blend of plant-based oils and oat milk. Becel with Oat Beverage is low in saturated fat and is free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. It’s also kosher, halal and Certified Plant Based through a partnership with Plant-Based Foods of Canada. And, according to its manufacturer, it can be swapped 1:1 in any recipe.

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May 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 65


Seaweed is a com­ mon name used to describe marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean. It can also grow in rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. While coastal communities have been consuming seaweed since pre­­ historic times, sea­ weed is part of the culinary traditions of East Asian coun­ tries such as China, Japan and Korea. Originally, seaweed for consumption was harvested locally and eaten fresh. How­ ever, seaweed can also be dried, which extends its shelf life indefinitely and increases ease in transportation. Com­ mon varieties include nori, wakame, dulse, kombu and kelp.

Seaweed Four things to know By Andrea Yu

3 VITAMIN SEA Seaweed is often marketed as a superfood. It’s high in iodine, iron and vitamin C, and contains soluble and insoluble fibre, magnesium, folate, vitamin B12 and protein while being low in calories. It also contains compounds not found in land-based food sources, such as fucoidan, which can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. The iodine content helps the thyroid function properly, while the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in seaweed are good for heart health.


Robin Langford, product category manager for natural food chain Goodness Me!, says there’s been a recent increase in crunchy seaweed snack options. “We find that customers are gravitating to these newer options as a great alternative to traditional potato chips,” Langford says. Flavours like cracked pepper and herbs and products roasted with olive oil or avocado oil help seaweed snacks appeal to modern audiences. Goodness Me! also stocks kelp seasoning products that come in a shaker. “They taste salty and are a salt alternative,” Langford says. Alternative seaweed products are also on the rise, like kelp jerky made with shiitake mushrooms, seaweed butter and plant-based tuna made with algae. Given the variety of new seaweed products, grocers new to the category can feel overwhelmed. But Langford suggests keeping it simple by picking a few brands to start with. “Use displays to introduce them to your traditional snack consumers.” Education should also play a role in sales, says Jo-Ann McArthur, president and chief strategist of Nourish Food Marketing. “Tell the story of how it is harvested, its protein content and its sustainability story.” She also recommends getting creative with how seaweed products are shelved, such as putting them in the same section as other keto and gluten-free products. “Think beyond the Asian section to capture plant-based, gluten-free and keto customers.”

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global com­mercial seaweed market was worth US$13.33 billion in 2019 and is pro­jected to grow to US$23.04 billion by 2027

The popularity of sustainable diets has helped fuel the growth of the edible seaweed market. “Seaweed is considered a zero-input food because there is no water or fertilizer needed to grow seaweed,” says Stephen Broad, CEO of GimMe Health Foods, which makes roasted seaweed snacks. Broad says younger generations more readily embrace seaweed as a snack. “From our research, we know that 40% of consumption is [age] 18 and under, so kids are 66  CANADIAN GROCER || May 2021


big consumers,” he says. Broad also says two-thirds of his customers are female, and identifies the age range of 18 to 45 years as a “sweet spot.” For those following plant-based diets, seaweed can be a valuable addition, says Nourish Food Marketing’s Jo-Ann McArthur. “Vegetarians use dulse and kombu in stock as a way of getting umami flavour,” she says. The growth of keto and gluten-free diets has also boosted consumption. CG









See you April 5-7, 2022, in Montreal, QC!


New Zero Waste Single-serve Coffee Pods Kraft Heinz has renovated the packaging for Maxwell House coffee pods. The new packaging is a full zero waste solution for the consumer. The coffee pods and mother bag are 100% Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified compostable, made with plant-based materials. The outer box is 100% recyclable, made from 100% recycled content paperboard. Pods are available in 12, 30 & 60 counts.

It’s more than Clean, it’s ProClean Each pre-measured DISC capsule combines concentrated OXI Power technology, long-lasting freshness, fibre care, and delivers an exceptional Deep Clean. Consumers can simplify their laundry routine with easy-to use Persil® ProClean® DISCS detergent capsules. No measuring, pouring or dripping, just convenient boosted stain fighting Oxi Power technology in the palm of their hand. It’s more than clean, it’s Persil® ProClean®!

Say cheese! These White Cheddar Puffs from Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP are made with real, simple ingredients - you know, ingredients you don’t have to scrunch up your face to say - and nothing fake - so all its ingredients are sourced from nature. Consumers can enjoy satisfying, crisp texture in bite sized pieces that are made from real cheddar cheese, are gluten free and non-GMO.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super Teas! Tetley Super Teas are the first line of teas in Canada to be fortified with vitamins and minerals for added health benefits. Tetley Immune, Immune+, Antiox, Boost and Sunshine Super Teas are fortified with between 19% to 25% of the daily value of vitamin B, C, D or zinc per cup of delicious tea. Crafted to complement an active and balanced lifestyle each tea perfectly blends the flavours consumers have come to love from Tetley with health benefits to help conquer the day!

*Survey of 4,000 people by Kantar



New Wine Now Available in Ontario Grocery The #1 South African wine brand is now available in Ontario Grocery. Grocery wine sales have exploded (+147%) since March 2020 as consumers are looking for one stop shopping. Two Oceans, one of Ontario’s largest and most recognized imported brands, will now offer Ontarians the opportunity to find their favourite brand at their local grocery store. New to grocery is Two Oceans Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot. This red blend is a category leader and easy drinking wine that over delivers. Add to your assortment today. LCBO#340398, Represented by: PMA Canada

Tree-Free Products from Caboo With products made from 100% bamboo, Caboo is a sustainable alternative to trees. Globally 27,000 trees are cut down daily for the manufacturing of toilet paper. Bamboo is a grass and among the fastest growing on the planet. It regenerates to full length in as little as two years and grows back on its own. Choosing tree-free products like Caboo can make a real difference on the future of our planet.

Eat for Tomorrow The humble sausage got a plant based makeover. Quick, delicious and simple to cook, this is comfort food at its best. An easy and flavourful way to add protein to any meal, TMRW™ Sausages are packed with good ingredients, hearty flavour and satisfying bite. Available in four delectable flavours: Original Bratwurst, Hickory Maple, Roasted Garlic + Herb, and Spicy Sicilian.

A New Twist on an Old Classic Chapman’s new Super Twister ice cream cones feature classic flavours in an innovative format. Each sugar cone is filled with a swirl of vanilla and chocolate flavours. These cones are available in two varieties: one with a salty caramel core and the other with a sinfully delicious chocolate centre. Consistent with Chapman’s commitment to various dietary restrictions, these products are manufactured in a peanut/nut free facility. Chapman’s was the first in Canada to introduce peanut/nut free ice cream products over two decades ago and currently offers the largest variety of these products across the country.


Express Lane


University of Guelph’s Simon Somogyi on the perceptions and implications of lab-grown meat and dairy By Carol Neshevich LAB-GROWN meat has become a hot topic in recent years with cutting edge “cellular agriculture” tech being touted as a sustainable method of meat production. While big strides are being made (this past December, for example, Singapore gave the world’s first regulatory approval to a lab-grown chicken product) we are still likely several years away from seeing any of these kinds of products on Canadian grocery shelves. And lab-grown meat is not without its controversies and perception challenges. Simon Somogyi, Arrell Chair in the Business of Food and associate professor at the University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food & Tourism Management, is currently leading a study exploring attitudes of consumers, retailers and members of the meat supply chain toward the idea of lab-grown meat. We recently chatted with Somogyi about the study, the implications of lab-grown meat (and dairy), and what grocers can expect to see from this technology in the future. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

disrupt the whole meat supply chain, particularly from what we can get further up the chain at the farm level. So we wanted to see what members of the food supply chain think about it—the barriers, the drivers of this technology, and just general perceptions; this involves farmers, wholesalers, processors and retailers. The project’s still going on, so we haven’t really seen the full results, but I think ... in the short term, there are probably two areas where it [lab-grown meat] will be beneficial: possibly in the pet food sector and in processed meats such as hamburgers and maybe even hot dogs, where you’ve got highly processed meat that’s not necessarily identifiable. That’s probably the earliest introduction we’ll get, as consumers, to lab-grown meat.

Do you have any preliminary findings? It’s early days still, but we have found the farming sector is very concerned. The concern is that this is going to be a substitute for what they provide. But it’s going to be a while before that happens. I think this provides, maybe in the short-term—the next, say, five to 10 years—an alternative to traditional meat, but it’s going to take a long time for it to completely render the farm obsolete. If anything, I think it’s just an alternative. There’s a lot of unpreparedness for this in the farming sector. Farms could even be investing in cellular agriculture and supply [both] lab-based and land-based meat to processors.

What are some other angles to consider? I think probably the other big opportunity for cellular agriculture is milk. The technology that will be coming out very soon—probably quicker than the meat-based alternatives—is using “precision fermentation,” which is a similar type of technology, to produce milk that is chemically and physiologically identical to the milk we get out of a cow. And that will heavily disrupt the dairy sector worldwide. It’s different from, say, meat, where you’ve got different types of cuts that will require the different biological processes to make that in the lab; milk is a very basic product compared to that. So I think particularly for those processors such as ice cream makers, cheese processors, yogurt—those types of processors are going to be looking for alternatives to [cows’] milk. Then, politically, we have a complex system of supply management in Canada. The dairy sector isn’t publicly talking about lab-based products, it’s about dairy farms and dairy cows and production there. So, we’re in for some interesting times ahead.

Tell us about your study on attitudes towards lab-grown meats.

In the years ahead, what can grocers expect to see in this area?

In the last five years, I think we’ve seen major development and progress in cellular agriculture—labgrown meat is another term for it—which is different from plant-based alternatives. This is chemically and physiologically the same as meat that comes from the animal. This technology really has the ability to

I think grocers can expect the major processing com­ panies to begin providing lab-based meat alternatives. They’ve already got plant-based meat alternatives, now they’re going to have lab-based. And the lab-made dairy in place of traditional dairy is definitely going to be something to take a look at. CG

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French Fruit & Veggies

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On models with EyeSight® and specific headlights

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